HISTORY OF THE SECOND MASSACHU-
SETTS BATTERY OF LIGHT ARTILLERY
Capt. Orniand F. Nima in War Ti
HISTORY OF THE SECOND
OF LIGHT ARTILLERY
COMPILED FROM RECORDS OF THE REBELLION,
OFFICIAL REPORTS, DIARIES AND ROSTERS
CAROLINE E. WHITCOMB
THE RUMFORD PRESS
CONCORD • N • H • U • S • A-
^ CAROLINE E. WHITCOMB
NIMS' SECOND MASSACHUSETTS BATTERY 7
NIMS' BATTERY ASSOCIATION 73
LIFE OF COL. ORMAND F. NIMS 79
ROSTER OF SECOND MASSACHUSETTS BATTERY ... 85
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Capt. Ormand F. Nims in War time . . . Frontispiece
Battery Encampment at Stewart's Place, Baltimore,
Landing of Federal Troops from Transport, Laurel Hill 38
Second, Fourth, and Sixth Massachusetts Batteries at
Baton Rouge 47
Col. Ormand F. Nims 73
Old Nims Homestead at Deerfield, Mass 79
David Nims, first town Clerk of Keene, N. H. . . . 80
DURING the years which have followed the close of
the Civil War, there have appeared many liistories
of various companies, regiments and different
divisions of the volunteer troops, all of value both to the
historian and to the participants in the great struggle. So
far as can be learned, almost nothing has been published of
the military history of the 2d Massachusetts Light Artillery,
better known as Nims' Battery, save a few short sketches
necessarily incomplete and sometimes inaccurate.
In 1870, at the Anniversary Dinner of the Nims' Battery
Association, the matter of "pubhshing a history of the bat-
tery during its service throughout the war of the Rebellion,
1861-1865," was brought forward and a committee was
appointed to take the necessary steps toward this work.
The committee, which consisted of Col. O. F. Nims, J. S.
Knowlton, John R. Smith, A. M. Norcross, D. M. Hammond
and A. B. Burwell, issued a call to the members of the bat-
tery asking each one to forward to the committee any infor-
mation in his possession such as diaries, letters, newspaper
clippings or matter of any kind that might aid in the work,
and urging the hearty cooperation of all "to the end that
the glorious record made by Nims' Battery — second to no
other — may not be sufiFered to perish in obU^don in our day
and generation, but be handed down to our children and
children's children for all time."
So far as can be ascertained, nothing further was done m
the matter and the only records to be found are those incor-
porated in the general histories of the war or in war records,
which are not always easy of access.
At the request and through the generosity of a member
10 Second Massachusetts Battery
of the Nims' Family Association, the writer has prepared
the following brief account of the military career of Nims'
Battery, together with the life of its commander, the history of
the Battery Association and the complete roster . After a period
of fifty years, it has been impossible to gather together the
personal reminiscences and to bring before our readers the
life of an artillery man as clearly as we could wish. We
trust, however, that there will be found in the pages of this
book a fairly complete and reasonably accurate record of
the military career of this organization.
At a meeting of the Nims' Battery Association held on
April 19, 1912, the manuscript of the entire history was read
to the members present and received their support and
The author wishes to express her obligation to all who have
assisted in any way in the preparation of this work, and
especially to W. G. Hidden, Fitchburg, Mass., for the loan
of diary, newspaper clippings and suggestions, to Capt. E. K.
Russell for his comments and suggestions and to Mrs. Math-
ews, stepdaughter of Col. O. F. Nims for the loan of papers,
letters and pictures once the property of Colonel Nims.
Thanks are also due Clarence K. Knowlton for the copy of
the diary of his father, J. S. Knowlton, to Mrs. C. B. Max-
well for the diary of C. B. Maxwell, to Mr. George Houghton,
Newport, for the diary of his father, George Houghton.
The expense of the preparation and publication of the book
has been borne to a large degree by Mr. E. D. Nims of Kansas
City whose generosity is appreciated both by members of the
Battery and by the Nims' Family Association.
Books Consulted in Preparation of this Work
War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and
Massachusetts in the Civil War. I. L. Bowen.
History of the Civil War. B. J. Lossing.
Putnam's Record of the Rebellion. Moore.
Century Company's War Book.
The Mississippi. J. V. Greene.
The Nineteenth Army Corps. Irwin.
Regimental and Battery Histories of New Hampshire
NIMS' SECOND MASSACHUSETTS
FEW batteries during the Civil War saw more actual
service than that known officially as the 2d Massa-
chusetts Light Artillery, but more generally called
Nims' Battery. Its career is well worth recording and the
part it played in the campaigns of the Department of the
Mississippi and the Gulf was by no means inconsiderable in
the history of the war.
Previous to 1861, there existed in Boston a military organ-
ization called the Boston Light Artillery or Cook's Battery.
When the news came from Baltimore that the Sixth Regi-
ment had been fired on and the city was in the hands of
rioters. General Butler who was then in Philadelphia, asked
that this organization be sent forward immediately to the
It was midnight of April 19, 1861, when the telegraph
brought the request: before the night of the 20th every-
thing was in readiness and in the early morning of the 21st
the first battery from Massachusetts was on its way to
Baltimore for a period of three months' service.
It had not left Boston, however, before Governor Andrews
gave orders for the formation of a second battery and desig-
nated Major Moses Cobb as its commander. Recruiting
headquarters were opened on the 20th of April at the Boston
Light Artillery Armory under Major O. F. Nims, and in
less than two days two hundred men applied for enlistment.
"Every member, officers and men, was the greenest of
raw material, but they were an intelhgent set of fellows and
took to drilhng as a duck to water." Colonel Nims.
14 Second Massachusetts Battery
Most of the men were from Boston and vicinity.
The first pubhc appearance of the battery was on June
17, when a parade was held on Boston Common, and on July
4 a detachment fired a salute at morning, noon and night
from the same historic spot.
On July 5 the battery was ordered to the camp of instruc-
tion at Wollaston Heights, Quincy, on what was known as
the Adams estate, which consequently gave to the camp the
name of Camp Adams. Here for a month, the men were
drilled in all the movements from the position of a soldier to
battery drill in the field and also as infantry and cavalry.
Target practise, too, was introduced and for that purpose
targets were placed at several points with reference to dis-
tance and correctness in shooting. These afforded an excel-
lent opportunity for the men to become familiar with their
On the 31st of July, the command was mustered into the
United States service under the name of the 2d Massachu-
setts Light Artillery, and from the same date the officers
were commissioned. This was the first three years' battery
from the state of Massachusetts.
It was supposed that Major Cobb would take the battery
into service, but he left the state abruptly and Governor
^Andrews sent Adjutant General Schouler down to camp to
ask Major O. F. Ninis, an experienced officer, to take com-
mand and get to Washington as soon as possible.
Nims replied: "I will accept a commission whenever it is
tendered me but I wdll not ask for one." It was then sug-
gested that the company be called on to elect a captain, but
this did not meet with Major Nims' approval as he had
made up his mind not to owe his position to the men under
him. "No," said he, "make me an officer if you will and
then ask them what they think of it." He was therefore
given the rank of captain, the men were lined up and informed
of what had been done. A wild shout of approval was their
Second Massachusetts Battery 15
reply, the men throwing their caps in tlie air as a further
demonstration of their satisfaction.
The roster of commissioned officers then was as follows:
Captain, Ormand F. Nims.
Senior 1st Lieut., John W. Wolcott.
Junior 1st Lieut., John Bigelow.
Senior 2d Lieut., Geo. G. Trull.
Junior 2d Lieut., Richard B. Hall.
1st Sergeant, Lowell A. Chamberlain.
Quarter Master Sergeant, Alden N. Norcross.
Chief of Piece with rank of Sergeant, Frank J. Wliitcher,
Warren K. Snow, Augustus B. Burwell, Henry P. Cheever,
Orlando C. Harvey, Edward K. Russell.
Gunners with rank of Corporal, Joseph S. Knowlton,
Francis E. Howe, Joseph Ackerman, Wm. W. Jordan, Con-
verse F. Livermore, Joseph W. Greenleaf.
Chief of Caisson with rank of Corporal, Henry M. Wads-
worth, Frederick A. Bellows, Edwin A. Andrews, Chas. F.
Sherman, Lucian A. Hodgdon, S. S. Lmcoln.
Artificers, C. W. Cobb, H. E. Brown, Seth H. Hatch,
Peter Jacobus, Joseph S. Haven, Reuben B. H. Gould.
An old artillery officer for many years in the English service
visited the camp frequently and said that he never saw better
material than the men in Nims' Battery. "They have,"
said he, "intelhgence and will, and a very few months of
active service will find them in the front rank of merit in
their class." Boston Journal, August 8, 1861.
Preparations were made to break camp August 7, but owmg
to an accident which befell the machinery of the steamer
which was to convey the battery to New York it was neces-
sary to wait until the following day. A quotation from a
Boston paper dated August 8, 1861, is as follows:
16 Second Massachusetts Battery
"The Light Artillery Company commanded by Capt.
O. F. Nims, after some delay as to their departure, left this
city this morning, shortly after one o'clock, on the Providence
Railroad, for New York and Washington, via Stonington.
They were paid off yesterday afternoon for their time of
service up to departure. For two days the scene at the camp
at Quincy was lively indeed, the men bejng actively engaged
in packing and preparing for departure. They left the
old quarters at shortly after 7 o'clock last evening and
marched over the turnpike to this city, arriving at the Provi-
dence Railroad Station at a few minutes past 10 o'clock.
At the depot were a considerable number of people who had
been waiting for several hours for the arrival of the company.
"As soon as the battery arrived at the station, the work of
loading the gun carriages, wagons, horses, etc., was actively
begun, each of the company lending a hand, and the work
was accomplished in about two hours. This done, a few
moments were given to saying a parting word to friends,
after which the men were ordered to 'fall in,' and marched
to the cars. On their departure, friends and lookers-on
joined in giving three hearty cheers, which were enthusi-
astically responded to by the members of the company.
"On the train were 156 men, 140 horses, and 21 carriages,
including the four baggage wagons, well loaded with the
camp equipage and baggage of the men. They were sup-
plied with about 1200 rounds of cartridges, including a
considerable amount of grape and canister. The men have
three days rations with them."
At the time of organization, the uniform adopted was
of a semi-zouave type, dark blue with red trimmings, the
trousers loose to the knee, with russet leather leggins —
grey shirt, a cut away jacket buttoned at the top with a
loop, and a regular military cap trimmed with red. This
made a very attractive uniform. Unfortunately during
the stay in Quincy, the salt air took out the color, and
Second Massachusetts Battery 17
before going into service the men were provided with regula-
tion United States uniforms.
The guns were fine United States bronze ordnance guns
from the Watervliet Arsenal, N, Y., rifled at Alger's Foundrj'
in South Boston and throwing a shell made by Schenkcl,
a very ingenious German. One kind of shell was in the
shape of a sugar loaf with hollowed bore filled with ])apier-
mache and weighing ten and one-half pounds,, a pound of
powder being used to fire it. When discharged, the papier-
mache would swell out, fill the grooves and give the shell a
twist. The noise the projectile made on leaving the gun was
very similar to that of a locomotive going through a tunnel.
When the shell exploded, it flew all to bits — not two or three
fragments but forty or fifty pieces.
Another shell prepared by Schenkel was exceedingly
deadly. It was filled with bullets and between the bullets
sulphur was poured in to keep them in place. The horses
were strong Vermont horses worth $150.00 to $200.00 each.
Boston Journal, February 22, 1903.
So the journey began, by rail to Stonington, then by boat
to New York, then to Jersey City and over the old Camden
and Amboy road to Philadelphia, arriving there Monday
morning, August 11, 1861.
A quotation from the Philadelphia Eiening Bulletin says:
"Captain Nims' celebrated Light ArtiUery consisting of
six pieces of rifled cannon, with caissons, ordnance wagons,
one ambulance, together with 140 horses arrived at Wash-
ington Avenue, at five o'clock. The company consists of
150 men who are strong, hearty fellows just fitted for ar-
tillery service. During the delay before starting for Balti-
more, the men sang several pieces, among them America
and Glory Hallelujah. The Union Volunteer Refreshment
Committee provided them with breakfast and the men were
loud in their praise of Philadelphia beneficence.
18 Second Massachusetts Battery
On arriving at Baltimore the men went into camp on the
estate of the Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart on West
Baltimore Street, the camp bearing the name of Camp Hale.
Here drill was resumed in earnest, battery, piece and sabre
drill and target practise.
A letter to the Boston Journal bearing the date August
18, 1861 gives the following picture of camp life.
Camp Hale, Baltimore,
August 18, 1861.
To the Editor of the Boston Journal:
We came through Baltimore on the 12th, on our way from
Camp Adams to this encampment, which is situated on
West Baltimore Street, is a half-mile outside of the city, and
in General Stuart's Park, which is a beautiful place for an
encampment, though as a park it is pretty well used up.
General Stuart is a general in the rebel army, and at this
place there were seized five hundred stand of arms. We
have plenty of fruit here, but do not eat much. The Balti-
moreans use us well and treat us as if we were their own
citizens, but this may be owing somewhat to our guns. There
are a good many secessionists here, but they keep very quiet
and we do not have much to say to them. Coming through
Baltimore we enlivened the streets with "Glory Hallelujah,"
and some savage faces were shown to us, but the sight of
our seven-shooters kept them very quiet.
We have just returned from bathing, and for this purpose
we go within one mile of the Relay House, the roads being
lined with thick woods. Houses are very scarce outside of
the city, and very old and small, looking like huts. On
Saturday we marched to the Pratt Street depot for the purpose
of receiving and escorting two of our Massachusetts regi-
ments, but they did not arrive, thus disappointing us and
themselves, we have no doubt. The captain has just learned
that some arms are stored in Pratt Street, and has ordered
Second Massachusetts Battery 19
our detachment to attend to examining the premises and put-
ting things in order. To do this we take one baggage wagon,
one gun, and twenty-five men, each armed with two seven-
shooters and sabre, and thus we make easy work of it.
We like our officers. Our captain is a man in the right
place. We all like him, for he looks out for the boys. And
we have a fine set of men, are very happily situated and
every evening we have camp life in full activity.
Our camp is somewhat different from that of a regiment,
not having quite such strict orders to conform to, and having
no guard duty to perform, that being done by the Fourth
Pennsylvania Regiment. We are in excellent health, having
had but one sick man since we left Camp Adams. It is
probable we shall remain here for the present. Today is
Sunday and most of thfe men are writing home. It is quite
warm, but we have had no warmer weather here than we
found at home. All letters should be directed to "Camp
Hale," Baltimore, care Capt. O. F. Nims, Second Company
Encamped at Baltimore at the same time was the 17th
Massachusetts, and a letter written by a member of that
To the Boston Journal, September 5.
"Nims' Artillery is at our left hand and a better set of
fellows, officers and men were never brought together.
May we remain together ' in union and for the Union' is
the hearty wish of our officers. Our band goes over to their
headquarters twice a week and the enlivening strains cause
joy to them and will help to unite the two commands in still
stronger fetters than the mere fact that we are all 'Bay State
boys.' That is a strong card out here and when we unite
in symphony as well as harmony it's a pretty good tune."—
The boys won the respect and esteem of the citizens of
Baltimore, even of the Southern sympathizers, and on Octo-
ber 16, the loyal citizens of Ward 19 presented to the battery
20 Second Massachusetts Battery
a flag 20 X 35 feet which was mounted on a flag staff 100 feet
in height prepared by the men.
The Baltimore Clipper gives an account of the event:
"Yesterday afternoon, at 4 o'clock, a large flag 26 x 20
feet, was raised to the top of the pole which is 100 feet high,
erected by the members of Nims' Boston Battery, at Camp
Andrew, West Baltimore Street extended. At the appointed
hour the line was formed in the rear of the pole, and the six-
rifled cannon placed in front, in a line facing the city. The
17th Massachusetts Regiment then formed a hollow square
on the north side, when the Rev. Mr. Marshall, of the Twelfth
Presbyterian Church, Franklin Street, by invitation, ad-
vanced to the center of the square and offered a most fervent
prayer, imploring divine mercies upon this Government.
"At a signal given the flag was run to the top of the pole,
during which the band of the 17th Massachusetts Regiment
struck up the Star Spangled Banner, and at every tap of the
bass drum a gun was fired. Three cheers were then given
for the Stars and Stripes, which were joined in by the many
hundreds present. Upon quiet being restored, the band
played Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia, and at each
sound of the bass drum there was a gun fiired. This manner
of salute, which is very common in Boston, is something
new here, and created considerable applause.
"After the ceremonies had ended, we were invited to take
a stroll through the camp, which we accepted, and were
much gratified with our visit. We found the men to be the
most gentlemanly and agreeable set of fellows it has been our
pleasure to meet for a long time. This battery does all its
own work, such as horse-shoeing, harness making, saddling,
"From the general appearance of things, it looks as if they
intended to quarter there for the winter, although all with
whom we conversed seemed anxious to go to the seat of
war. Their pieces are all marked No. 2, but this is certainly
Second Massachusetts Battery 21
the 'No. 1' Battery, and is so considered by all who know
them, and any person who does not know them to be such,
only need witness one of their drills to be convinced of the
fact. The flag was a present from the Union men of the
Still another clipping from a Boston newspaper for the
truth of which we will not vouch, however, is entitled "None
but the Brave deserve the Fair," "We learn by a private
letter written by a member of 'Nims' Light Battery' from
Baltimore, that its members are a little inclined to make
sad havoc vnth. the affections of the young ladies of that
city. 'Within the last few weeks three or four marriages
have taken place. The " Battery boys" have been in great
favor with the Union people ever since their arrival in the
city, and by their gentlemanly behavior and good conduct
have strengthened their friends' worthy appreciation. Within
a fortnight one of them, a young man of Boston, led to the
altar a daughter of one of the most respectable and wealthy
Union citizens of Baltimore. One of the lieutenants and
two privates have also enjoyed the pleasure of married life.' "
On the 4th of November the battery, together with the
4th Wisconsin Regiment, Col. H. E. Fame, and an indepen-
dent company of Fennsylvania cavalry. Captain Richards,
started on an expedition down the Chesapeake, landing at
Whitehaven, Md., on the Wiacomo River and marching to
Frincess Ann where they spent the night in the court house.
The next day, the march was continued to Snow Hill. On that
day, the men experienced some of the minor hardships of a
soldier's hfe, for we read in the diary of George Houghton:
"A very hard march in the rain over a\\-ful roads of sand
and mud and the last two miles the water two feet deep.
Some of the infantry gave out as this was their first experience
and we took them on our wagons and caissons. After trav-
eHng twenty miles we had to go to bed without any supper
for the Jersey Blue, the boat carrying our rations, lost its
22 Second Massachusetts Battery-
way up the river and was a day late, I slept in the guard
tent and most froze to death."
Another says: "We were quartered in a negro church but
no peace for the weary or hungry there. As our rations had
not arrived, we came out minus on the supper question, all
the food having been secured for the infantfy, who had seen
hard marching and wading for a first experience."
The day previous to the arrival at Snow Hill had been
election day and the vote in the town had stood one majority
in favor of secession.
After a day or two in the negro church, camp was made
in the woods near by in connection with the 4th Wisconsin
and the cavalry. Sibley tents were given out and as one
of the privates writes home: "They are real nice and com-
fortable though there is no means for hanging up clothes. We
have purchased a camp kettle and are cooking by detach-
The appearance of the country was unfamihar to our
New England boys and one writes: "I've scarcely seen any-
thing that deserves to be called a hillock and the soil is
either wet, sandy, or swampy." Quite a change from the
rock ribbed hills and mountains of the homeland. However,
while critical of soil and landjscape, Maryland oysters met
with universal approbation. Baked beans too had a familiar
taste though sometimes when baked in a Dutch-oven under-
ground the sand found its way in, giving a flavor not ap-
proved by Bostonians.
The purpose of this Eastern Shore campaign as it was called
was to make a demonstration of Union forces in Somerset
and Worcester counties, Md., where the feehng was strong
for secession and where troops for the Confederacy were
being recruited. On November 14, camp was broken at
Snow EQll and the battery marched sixteen miles to Newtown,
Md., where it joined the larger body of troops under General
Second Massachusetts Battery 23
The whole force now consisted of detachments from the
4th Wisconsm, 21st Indiana, 6th Michigan, 5th New York,
2d Delaware, Pursell's Legion of Maryland, 17th Massa-
chusetts, Richard's Cavalry and the 2d Massachusetts Light
Battery all in command of General Lockwood.
November 13, General Dix had issued a proclamation'
to the inhabitants of Accomac and Northampton counties,
Virginia, urging them to peace and loyalty. To enforce
this proclamation General Lockwood with his brigade left
Newtown and went by way of Drummondtown and Belle-
ville to Eastville toward the end of the peninsula.
The battery arrived at Drummondtown, November 21.
This was Thanksgiving Day and we read, "Poultry very
plenty on the way. Bought (?) two turkeys and a goose
for our dinner. Grand mistake of Corporal S. in boiling
a chicken with a bar of soap."
On the way from Drummondtown to Eastville scouting
parties were sent out and in these the members of the bat-
tery took part capturing seven six-pound guns, several
hundred muskets, ammunition, and a brass twelve-pound
Howitzer which had been buried in the woods. December
1, a grand review was held by General Lockwood.
As it was evident the Confederate forces had left the
country and the purpose of the expedition had been accom-
phshed, preparations were made for the return to Baltimore.
Accordingly on December 12, the battery again went on
board the Pocahontas and returned to its former camp in
Baltimore after an absence of forty-seven days during which
"the only sanguinary occurrence was the capture and
slaughter of turkeys, geese, and other fowls for which severe
punishment was meted out by General Lockwood."
One of the men in a letter written home at this time writes:
"We were amused somewhat at one time on the trip by the
astonishment of an old darky who seeing our brigade inquired,
iSee Off. Records, Vol. 5, p, 431. "
24 Second Massachusetts Battery
'Has all you genn'men got names?' and while we were
waiting several days near the landing for transportation we
spent our time out of doors and bathing in the waters of
the bay which we thought pretty good for December."
On the 18th of December, Lieutenants Wolcott and Bige-
low resigned to accept positions in a Maryland battery.
Second Lieutenants Trull and Hall were promoted to their
positions and the vacancies were filled by the commissioning
of William Marland of Andover and Sergeant Warren K.
Snow of Boston as second lieutenants.
Life at Camp Andrew from December tiU the following
February was uneventful though by no means idle. The
men worked hard, drills were held almost daily furnishing
perhaps an explanation for the later record of the battery
when real warfare began. Jn regard to this Capt. E. K. Rus-
"One of the things that won the love of the Union men of
Baltimore was the frequent battery drills through the streets
of that city. Captain Nims was always in command and the
rapid movements of the battery as a whole, in sections, or
single guns, stationed at certain points to command all
avenues of approach at given points were simply marvellous.
Much of the work was done by the bugle and if the bugler
was not at hand our captain carried a small one under his
arm and this would ring out the commands with a snap so
that not only the men took notice but even the horses recog-
nized the calls and jumped into the movements with a will. "
It is evident that Captain Nims had a high ideal of what
a battery should be and spared neither pains nor effort in
his endeavor to reach this ideal. "This morning, drill.
We jumped ditches, pond holes, anything that could be
jumped, ran up banks six or eight feet high and then had
a run down street." "Had a foot drill today and it was
rough double quick — then the captain gave us instructions
on dress parade." "Sabre drill on horseback." "Spent
Second Massachusetts Battery 25
about all day cleaning up harnesses, horses, etc. Captain
came around and examined them." And so on day after
Naturally new conditions of life prevailed and as some
one has said "Citizens had to be made into soldiers." The
regret manifested by the people of Baltimore when the
battery was ordered south speaks well for the conduct and
character of its men. Discipline of course was strictly
maintained and we are not surprised to read in one diary,
"Privates — and — had to walk in barrels eight hours a day
for three days"; or " — was threatened with a barrel for
missing roll call this morning." But certainly this does
not seem like a very heinous offence to the civilian.
Letters from home were eagerly welcomed. In one diary
opposite the date December 25 we read "Letter from home —
good Christmas present that "; and another writes "I don't
get my letters so often as I wish I did." Boxes too were
gladly received and their contents shared with less fortunate
A quotation from the Boston Journal of February gives a
picture of a social event in camp. "The first grand ball of
the battery came off at Stewart's Hall, Baltimore, on Mon-
day evening and was a grand success. The floor managers
and musicians were all members of the battery. The order
of dances consisted of a grand promenade, four quadrilles,
some fancy dances and wound up with a 'walk around' by
Mr. C. We hope to have our next ball in Boston among our
It was expected that the battery would now be attached
to the Army of the Potomac but on the organization of Gen.
B. F. Butler's expedition. Captain Nims and his men were
assigned to the Department of the Guff and the Mississippi.
Accordingly on February 25, 1862 the battery left Baltnnore
and went by steamer Columhia to Fort Monroe canipmg
near Hampton in view of the mouth of the James River and
26 Second Massachusetts Battery
of Hampton Roads. Here the men witnessed the destruc-
tion of the warships Congress and Cumberland by the ram
Merrimac and the encounter between the Monitor and the
Merrimac. The following interesting account of the same
is taken from a record written by S. P. Skilton, a member
of the battery.
"On the 8th of March at noon we heard heavy firing toward
Newport News and the steam frigates Roanoke and Minne-
sota and quite a lot of gunboats went up that way engaging
the battery at Sewall's Point though their fire fell far short
of it. The old steam frigate Merrimac had been cut down
and iron clad by the Confederates and was whipping our
vessels, as they were all wooden ones and could make scarcely
any impression on the ironplated monster. After about an
hour's hard fighting the Merrimac ran her prow into the
CuTnherland, causing her to fill with water and rendering
"Commodore Morris would not surrender nor haul down
the flag but kept at work at the guns till water covered the
decks. Night coming on, the Merrimac anchored off Sew-
all's Point. That was a dark night for us, as with
one exception nothing looked hopeful. We were cut off
from help landward, the Congress was burned, the Cumber-
land sunk, the Minnesota was aground and the Roanoke
helpless with a broken shaft, while nothing seemed to check
the ram at all. About midnight the Congress blew up.
Among the dark rumors that night came a grain of hope in
the report that an iron cased battery, the Ericsson which had
been expected had arrived and would engage the Merrimac
in the morning. Still it was but a grain.
"Light on that Sabbath morning showed the new helper
lying behind the Minnesota but looking rather insignificant.
About eight o'clock the Merrimac came saucily out accom-
panied by the Jamestown and Yorktown, wooden steamers
and evidently expecting to have it all her own way as on the
Second Massachusetts Battery 27
previous afternoon. As she approached the Minnesota Ihe
new comer came out from behind, which caused her to hesi-
tate. She soon came on again when the Ericsson engaged her
for several hours. At one o'clock the Merrimac hauled away
for Norfolk with her guns all disabled while the Ericsson was
not damaged at all. You can imagine there was great relief
on the part of those who had stood watching and feeling
that their own welfare depended on the outcome of that
The night preceding this naval battle one section of the
battery under Lieutenant Trull accompanied by a company
of 1st Delaware was on picket duty at White Gate, guarding
the cross roads as an attack by land was looked for. The
men stood at their guns all night, but morning dawned nvith-
out the appearance of the enemy. At the same time the
left section was stationed at Hampton Bridge under Lieuten-
ant Hall. The morning of the same day the battery was
ordered to Hampton Creek, where it remained for four hours
firing several shots at the Merrimac, which was, however,
too far away to be reached.
While in camp at Fort Monroe there was a grand review
of all the troops by General Wool and also during their stay
General McClellan's army of 125,000 marched by on their
way to Yorktown. Speaking of the stay at Fort Monroe,
Captain Russell v/rites: "This was one of the most trying
times for the battery. We were all anxious to get to the
front somewhere and while encamped here, along came the
Army of the Potomac on the way to Yorktown. Day after
day a continuous stream of men and batteries passed us
calling to us 'Come on, get into the swim with us.' "
While here the battery had an opportunity to compete
with one of the regulars in target practise. "Several Con-
federate steamers, the Merrimac among them, came out of
Norfolk and lay in fine off Sewall's Point. The battery was
ordered to Hampton Creek with a battery of the regular
28 Second Massachusetts Battery
army on the left. About 4 p. m. the Merrimac moved a little
nearer and fired at the Union steamer Naugaiuck, but burst
a gun and fell back disabled. The regular battery fired a
few shot at her but fell short two miles. The right section
of our battery fired at an elevation of 30° by sinking the trail
in the ground, the first shot bursting just on the other side
of the Merrimac — a distance of four and one-half miles. We
received much praise for our gunnery." Diary, W. G. Hidden.
"The next day we trained a gun on Sewall's Point and
fired a shell. It went so close to the far-away beach that
Captain Nims said 'Give her a httle more elevation.' We
dug the hole a little deeper, put her muzzle a httle higher and
the captain's next shell landed plumb on the point. That
was five miles away."
To quote again from Captain Russell: "Our stay in the
vicinity of Fort Monroe was about seven weeks. During
that time we had seen much and done little so that when
the old ship DeWitt Clinton reported as ready to bear us to
the Southland for more active service we were all glad. But
the loading of all our horses on the ship and placing them in
stalls below deck was no small job. Then came the guns
and carriages, ammunition, forges, etc. But at last all was
ready and as we sailed past the capes and the old ship headed
southward we felt that at last we were off for the place await-
ing us where we could do something for the integrity of our
country and its flag. Our voyage was a pleasant one, no
sickness of a serious character, the men cheerful and spend-
ing much time in making souvenirs of the voyage out of
anything at hand. One thing did occur which made a lasting
impression on the minds of those who witnessed it. Our
ship was to report at Ship Island for further orders. After
we had rounded Cape Florida one night, with our good ship
under full sail and a free wind, the cry came from the lookout,
'Rocks ahead.' All of us who were on deck and those who
could quickly reach it saw on each side of the bow of the
Second Massachusetts Battery 29
ship and not far distant towers of rocks. No time was loft
to turn the ship to right or left, and so the man at the wheel
could do nothing but let her go straight ahead. We braced
ourselves for the expected shock, that would send us all to
a watery grave. Seconds seemed hours. As we passed the
rocks it seemed that one could throw a stone and hit them
on either side. No shock came. Our sliip went through
into open water, she was rounded up into the wind, sails
clewed up and anchor let go and we all breathed again.
When morning came we found that our navigator had made
a great mistake in his calculations and we had been j)iloted
in safety through Dead Men's Keys. By whom? By God,
in whose service we were. With grateful hearts we sailed
away and reached Ship Island without further incident."
Ship Island was reached on the 14th after a passage of
twenty-two days. A letter from Thomas N. Palmer written
the following day:
"W^e have had a very pleasant voyage, no serious storm
since we left Fort Monroe — a good steady old ship. The
boys are all in good spirits and ready for anything. This war
is fast drawing to a close and we shall soon be traveling
north." Of the 134 horses belonging to the battery only
four died on the trip, a rather unusual record at that time.
As the government valued each horse reaching Ship Island
at $700 this was regarded as a decidedly favorable passage
from a financial point of view.
At Ship Island news was received of the taking of New
Orleans two weeks before and the battery proceeded at once
up the Mississippi arriving at New Orleans on the mornmg
of May 24 and camping at the Pelican Cotton Press. It was
now assigned to General WilUams' Brigade and in less than
a week ordered on board the steamers Burton and Diana for
Baton Rouge where it arrived on June 1. "Here we found
our old Eastern Shore comrades, the 4th Wisconsin and 6th
Michigan regiments, who greeted us w4th hearty cheers and
30 Second Massachusetts Battery
still more to the point furnished us with hot coffee." During
this time the men were sent on scouting expeditions capturing
some prisoners, seizing everything of value and burning
some of the plantations which served as Confederate strong-
holds. On one of these expeditions the left section together
with the 30th Massachusetts and two companies of the 4th
Wisconsin captured 40,000 lbs. of sugar, molasses, cattle,
sheep, mules, and wagons, and took prisoners one lieutenant
and four privates.
The battery now prepared to join in the expedition against
Vicksburg and on the 22d of June landed at Ellis Cliff in
order to dislodge a hostile force that had fired the day before
on the Union transports passing up the river. After a seven
miles' march through the woods the enemy's camp was
reached where fires were burning and beans boiling but the
occupants had left in a hurry. The captain of the band was
however captured in his carriage. Two days later a similar
movement was made at Grand Gulf where the Confederates
were driven from their position, five prisoners taken and the
town and railroad destroyed. Under the date June 24,
"3 A. M. Steamers with infantry and battery on board sailed
up a bayou to get in the rear of Grand Gulf. 10 a, m. Landed
at Berry's Plantation. Formed line of march, 4th Wisconsin
and right half of battery in advance. Marched two miles
and found a small force of the enemy in the woods who fired
on our infantry. Colonel Paine ordered the right piece to
the front. He did not have to wait long for my horses were
ready for a jump. We soon reached the woods, fired a few
shots at the enemy who saved thjemselves by getting on
board a train and steaming away. Fired at train and struck
the rear car completely shattering it. Marched five miles,
found enemy's camp on fire vacated an hour previous. Then
into Grand Gulf where we burned every building and de-
stroyed the railroad track." J. S. Knowlton.
Two days later the expedition arrived at Point de Soto,
Second Massachusetts Battery 31
three miles below Vicksburg, where the battery was first
under fire and had its first lesson in real fighting. Tlie
occasion for this was incidental to the passage of Farragiit's
fleet up the river. Farragut had received most urgent letters
from the Navy Department urging upon him the clearing
of the Mississippi, Vicksburg being then the only point in
the possession of the Confederates. Although he felt that
it was impossible to take the city without a large land force,
he prepared at once to make the attempt. Sending on in
advance a flotilla of mortar boats under Commander D. D.
Porter he followed with his fleet of three ships and seven
gunboats accompanied by ten transports carrying General
Wilhams' Brigade of four regiments and two batteries — the
2d and the 6th Massachusetts.
To quote from J. S. Knowlton's diary: "Our mortar boats
commenced bombarding the city of Vicksburg at 4 p. m.
We were ordered around the backside of the woods so as to
get unperceived to the nearest point to Vicksburg. We
marched over five miles and came to a halt on the railroad
about three quarters of a mile from the point where we were
to go into action. Here we dismounted and slept by our
horses until the mortar boats began firing which was a signal
for us to ^art. The firing soon became very severe, which
indicated that the fleet had started. We pushed do^\^l the
railroad, shot and shell falhng thick and fast all around us,
cutting off trees and plowing the soil at an enormous rate.
We soon reached the shore and concentrated our whole fire
upon three batteries of the enemy's right wing. Their
batteries could be seen blazing from all points of the city.
We made some good shots, putting our shell plumb withm
the enemy's works. They kept up a continual firing on our
fleets sending their shots with great rapidity. At o p. m.,
the fleet having passed, we were ordered back to camp, havmg
been engaged an hour and a half. Not a man in our com-
32 Second Massachusetts Battery
pany was injured in the whole engagement and only one horse
Another member of the battery writes: "Probably few
grander sights were to be had dm-ing the war than we saw
that morning as Farragut in the Hartford, just going enough
to prevent the current getting the better of him, led his fleet
of wooden vessels through that deluge of shot and shell."
S. P. Skilton.
At an inspection the next afternoon. Captain Nims said
that Commodore Farragut expressed much pleasure at the
performance of the battery and the aid it had rendered and
stated that it was the hottest fire he was ever under. The
only part taken by the land forces in this expedition was by
the two Massachusetts batteries.
A few days later the fleet passed back down the river
under a heavy fire from Vicksburg and remained for some
time in the vicinity of the city.
^Before Vicksburg the river made one of those gigantic
bends for which it is famous. For three miles it flowed
directly toward the city and then bending suddenly flowed
in an exactly opposite direction. Between these lines lay a
peninsula scarcely a mile wide. When following the course
of the stream, a vessel going up or down the river was under
fire of the batteries for a distance of six miles. It was thought
that if a canal be dug across this peninsula the current of
the river might wear a channel by which boats could pass
leaving them exposed for only one mile. Accordingly General
WilHams was commissioned to gather a force of negroes
from the surrounding plantations to carry out this enter-
prise. Some 1500 were brought in and set to work, but the
plan did not succeed. The position was not well chosen
and before the work was completed the river rose suddenly
and destroyed all that had been accomplished.
It was now evident that while it was possible to send a
»See The Mississippi, J. V. Greene.
Second Massachusetts Battery 33
fleet up the river if necessary, Vicksburg could not he taken
without a land force of 12,000 to 15,000 men. Accordingly,
on July 24, Farragut's fleet, together with the transports
bearing General Williams' Brigade, started down tlii' river
leaving Vicksburg entirely free. General Williams and his
troops debarked at Baton Rouge for the purpose of per-
manently occupying it.
Of this entire mo vement Irwin say s : "No casualties occurred
but the troops returned July 26 to Baton Rouge after having
for more than three months undergone hardships such as
have seldom fallen to the lot of soldiers in a campaign whose
existence is scarcely known and whose name is well nigh
During the stay near Vicksburg many of the men contracted
fever and on July 19 occurred the first death among the mem-
bers of the battery — that of Theodore H, Price of Boston.
Others followed in quick succession until by August 8, six
of the battery had fallen victims to the soldier's worst foe,
disease. These were: Theodore H. Price, died July 19;
J. S. Haven, died July 31; Alvin Lovejoy, died August 2;
Cyrus Davidson, died August 5; E. L. Leavitt, died August
5; M. F. Tate, died August 8.
Nor was this all, for at the grand review and inspection by
General Williams on July 31, of the 140 members of the
battery only 21 were present for duty, the remainder, includ-
ing Captain Nims himself, being in the hospital. The same
condition naturally prevailed among the other members of
the brigade, one regiment (the 7th Vermont) mustering
but 48 men and other regiments averaging 150; so that not
one half of the entire number was reported as ready for
When this state of affairs was made known to Major Van
Dorn of the Confederate Army, he organized an expedition
to capture the post. It was composed of about 5000 men
under Gen. J. C. Breckenridge who expected to be aided in
34 Second Massachusetts Battery
his endeavor by the ram Arkansas. With his entire force
moving along the two roads that enter Baton Rouge
from the southwest he made a vigorous attack in the early
morning of August 5. Wilhams was expecting the attack
(we read in the diary of one of the men that the horses had
been standing in harness three days and three nights), and
had arranged his forces to meet it. His army, depleted as it
was by sickness, numbered only £500 effective men. He
posted the 4th Wisconsin on Bayou Gros on the extreme left,
with a portion of Manning's Battery in the arsenal grounds
on its left. On the right of that regiment was the 9th Con-
necticut with four of Manning's guns in the cemetery. To
the left of Greenwell Springs Road was the 14th Maine and
next came the 21st Indiana with four guns of Everett's
Battery. The 6th Michigan was posted across the country
road with two guns. In the rear of the last two was the 7th
Vermont, and at the extreme right was the 30th Massachusetts
supporting Nims ' Battery.^
Owing to the illness of Captain Nims, First Lieutenant
Trull was in command, while to take the place of the men
in the hospital a detail of thirty men had been secured from
the 9th Connecticut so that when the battle opened the six
guns were manned.
The conflict lasted from four to nine o'clock, a period of five
hours, and throughout the entire battle Nims' Battery won
the highest commendation for efficient service. Perhaps
nothing could give a better account of what it accomplished
than the Official Report of Colonel Dudley:* "I imme-
diately ordered Nims' Battery under the command of the
brave and efficient First Lieutenant Trull, to the left and
considerably to the front so as to clear the thick woods in
its front. This battery went into action within 250 yards of
a Kentucky regiment sheltered by a fence and a cornfield,
« See Lossing's History of the Civil War.
* OS. Rep., Vol. 15, p. 39.
Second Massachusetts Battery 35
where it remained doing excellent service until ordered to
change position. Officers and men could not have behaved
better. More coolness could not have been expected from
veterans than the officers and men of tliis battery disjjlayed.
They changed position four times under my own observation
and on each occasion the gallant commander displayed his
competency for the prominent part he acted in this severest
part of the field. ... At one time the undaunted
Trull with his battery was hotly engaged on the right with a
full battery of the enemy which had approached within 150
yards (supposed to have been the celebrated Simmes' Bat-
tery), but the 6th Michigan moved up to the support of Nims'
Battery in elegant order. Its assistance came most fortu-
nately for it was clear the enemy intended to outflank us at
this point. ... At this juncture of the conffict I ordered
Lieutenant Trull to fire his three left pieces across the fronts
of the Indiana 21st, Massachusetts 30th, and 7th Vermont.
This was the turning point of the right wing. The galling
fire of canister effectually silenced the enemy's fire and they
retreated to the rear."
At one time the guns became so hot that it was impossible
to use them and it became necessary to wait. While water
was being brought to cool them a fierce attack was made by
the enemy, but proved unsuccessful.
"At another time the enemy advanced bearing the Stars
and Stripes until they were within 25 yards of the battery
who supposed them to be their own men, but soon their
artillery and infantry opened a tremendous fire, too high,
however, to do much, damage. In an instant the guns were
discharged and the enemy mowed dowTi like grass, the first
fire killing over 100. Great cheers and praises for Nims'
boys could be heard all over the battlefield." Diary of
J. S. Knowlton.
A correspondent of the Boston Journal gives the following
description of the battle.
36 Second Massachusetts Battery
"Two highways run out of Baton Rouge — one above and
one below, — on each side of the town; about a mile and a half
a road cuts these two roads at right angles, while extending
from road to road is a large cemetery, facing towards the
city and looking directly into the camps of the Indiana,
Massachusetts, and Connecticut regiments. The front
of this cemetery is fenced with paling, while the cemetery
is thickly strewn with large tombs and overgrown with high
rank weeds. This was the position of the rebel center. Our
center was composed of the Indiana 21st, the Massachusetts
and Connecticut, drawn up on the opposite side of the roads,
and not more than forty-five rods distant. The rebel right
approached through corn-fields and over a rolhng country,
attacked with great impetuosity the 14th Maine's camp and
drove them out, burning and pillaging the camp in a few
minutes. The 14th Maine rallied, and, supported by the
Massachusetts and Nims' Battery, returned to the attack
and drove the enemy back with great slaughter.
"The fiercest part of the conflict, at this tide of the battle,
occurred before and within a house which the rebels obsti-
nately determined to get possession of. The most con-
spicuous of the rebels at this place was a huge negro, armed
and equipped with musket, knapsack and uniform; he led
the rebels, and met his death at the hands of one of our men.
Pressed back by our left, and our ground regained, the battle
raged in front with desperate fierceness. So silently did
the rebels approach, and so well were they concealed, that
they were in the cemetery and drawn up in battle array with-
out our knowing it. With a yell they rushed up to the fence,
dashed through it and across the road, bearing everytliing
before them. At one time the opposing forces were hand
to hand, and our handful of men were driven out of their
camps and back into the town; but, rallied on every hand
by their officers, and the cool daring of General Williams,
assisted by the gunboats that began to fire shell on each
Second Massachusetts Battery 37
bank with perfect accuracy and deadly effect, our troops
bravely rushed to the front and drove the entire rebel center,
back across the road, into and beyond the cemetery, from
which they were not again able to emerge."
From a description of the battle given by a soldier who was
in the fight, we extract the followang:
^"The 14th Maine, 21st Indiana and 6th Wisconsin were
the first regiments engaged. They held in check about eight
thousand Confederates for about one hour, when they were
forced back a quarter of a mile, the Confederates occupying
their camps, which they destroyed. On account of a heavy
fog, the 7th Vermont, 9th Connecticut and 4th Wisconsin
were not able to ascertain the exact position of the enemy,
and were of but very little service until the new line was
formed. ^Captain Nims, Captain Everett, and the battery
on the right, and two pieces of the 4th Massachusetts on the
extreme left, opened a murderous fire from their batteries,
which was returned with spirit by the Confederates. The
battle raged without a moment's intermission, and with
great severity for two hours. During this time nothing but
a continual roar of artillery, the rattle of musketry, the shouts
of the combatants and the groans of the wounded and dying
was to be heard. Captain Nims' Battery was compelled
to fall back, his guns being so hot it was impossible to use
"He took his position on the left of the 21st Indiana, and
ordered water to be brought to cool his guns. While thus
engaged, three regiments of the Confederates charged the
21st Indiana, and one regiment charged the battery. General
Williams, perceiving the perilous position of the regiment,
and knowing the consequences of having the center' broken,
took his position at the head of the regiment, and gave the
6 Putnam's Record of the Rebellion, Vol. 5, p. 307.
6 This is e\adently incorrect as Captain Nims was in the hospital and
Lieutenant Trull in charge.
38 Second Massachusetts Battery
command to prepare to charge. The regiment fired three
volleys (the battalion having breech-loading rifles), and
allowed the Confederates to approach within a few rods.
General Williams then gave the command: 'Forward! double
quick !' and with a deafening cheer they rushed to the charge.
The shock of two such masses advancing shook the entire
"The struggle was fierce and the slaughter heavy. Four
times the rebels made desperate efforts to come from among
the tombs and cross the road, but were driven back each
time, and finally they retreated in full panic.
"On our right, in the meantime, the rebels, under General
Clarke, made a desperate effort to flank us and get in our
rear. It was here that the admirable generalship of Williams
displayed itself. Anticipating this very movement, he had
placed Manning's battery of six pieces, supported by the
Wisconsin and Vermont regiments, while the Michigan
Regiment was strongly posted at the crossing of the roads and
commanding the entire approach of the enemy's left. Here
the battle raged fiercely; and after the rebels' flank movement
was repulsed and driven back, not to return, here it was that
the gallant general fell, at the head of the Indiana and Mich-
igan regiments, but not before victory had lighted up that
fine manly face with its glow of triumph.
"This was the signal for a general onset on both sides.
Captain Nims lost two of his guns, but charged with his
sabres and revolvers and retook them. The 21st Regiment
repulsed three times their own numbers, and drove them
back in confusion. I was at this time detached with the
first platoon of our company (4th Regiment Wisconsin),
to skirmish on the extreme left of the line, to prevent a sur-
prise on our flank. I took a position one mile outside the
old picket lines, in true Yankee style, behind stumps and
trees. The rebels did not think it safe to honor us with a
shot. We were fired at, however, by some of our pickets,
Second Massachusetts Battery 39
who were driven in from the front, they mistaking us for
rebels. They also reported us to the gunboat Essex as
rebels, and she commenced shelling our lines. The rebels
were forced back a mile and a half."
In General Butler's General Orders we find the following
eulogy of General WiUiams: "A gallant general, an accom-
pUshed officer, a pure patriot and victorious hero and a
devoted Christian. In choosing his position for the battle
he gave up the vantage of the cover of the houses of the
city, forming his lines m the open field lest the women and
children of his enemies suffer in the fight."
In another report'' honorable mention is made of Sergeant
Cheever, Privates Tyler and Clogston for the skiU and brav-
ery with which they worked one of the guns when almost m
the hands of the enemy, they having left sick beds m order
to do their duty. .
The courage and steadfastness of the Union troops is al
the more remarkable when we remember that as Weitzel
says- "None of our men had been m battle and few had been
under fire. The entire Union loss in this battle was reported
as 77 killed and 240 wounded. Of this number the battery
lost four wounded, one detailed from the 9th Connecticut
receivmg a mortal wound, and one man was captured. ^
When the conflict was over. General Butler said: Nims
Battery saved the day," and Breckenridge h^msel was
heard to remark: "If it had not been for that Light ArtiUery
in front, I would have taken the place, I charged it three
times, but was knocked back every time." Boston Journal
Breckenridge had made a speech to his men eariy that
morning promising them to have his band playmg in the state
house by nine o'clock. • i 4. u^ rv^n^^ to
It was expected that another attempt might be made to
regain Baton Rouge, as a few days after the battle a flag^f
truee came in from the Confederates ordermg General Fame,
70£E. Rec, Vol. 15, p. 46.
40 Second Massachusetts Battery
the Union leader, to withdraw his forces. Preparations
were immediately made for the defense of the city; all
public buildings were burned and trees cut down that might
interfere with the range of the guns. The men of the battery
lay by their guns all night, but the next morning it was found
that the enemy had retreated, burning their bridges behind
them. A few days later Breckenridge marched his troops
to Port Hudson, thirty miles above and began there the
construction of heavy batteries.
Soon after the Union forces left Baton Rouge, and on
August 21 the entire command left for New Orleans. The
battery first camped at Carrollton but changed the next
day to Materia Ridge where it joined the brigade under
Colonel Dudley consisting of 30th Massachusetts, 4th Wis-
consin, 21st Indiana, 6th Michigan, 7th Vermont, 14th
Maine, 9th Connecticut, 2d, 4th and 6th Massachusetts
batteries and 21st Indiana Battery.
The location did not prove healthful, however, and a week
later camp was once more changed to Tivoli Circle, New
On August 22 Privates Lombard and Barnes died at St.
James Hospital. Indeed, sickness followed the battery and
in every record we read: "Have been in hospital two weeks."
"Came to hospital to-day." "Two more men on the sick list."
In the month of October eleven members, some of whom had
been in the hospital for weeks were discharged and came
home. During the stay in New Orleans, however, the men
began to regain their health.
The time from August to December was spent largely in
drilling, a parade and some form of drill constituting a part
of each day's duty. Inspection of men and quarters was
common and some will doubtless remember an acting inspec-
tor general who ordered Corporal to get his hair cut,
much to the amusement of the boys as said corporal wore a
wig. On Thanksgiving Day some of the men fought off
Second Massachusetts Battery 41
the pangs of homesickness by preparing a grand dinner.
"The best I've eaten since I left home," while others in the
evening gave a grand ball where the music consisted of three
violins, a cornet and a banjo.
About this time Lieutenant Trull left to take command of
the 4th Massachusetts Battery, Second Lieutenant Marland
was advanced to First, and First Sergeant Edw. K. Russell of
Chelsea was commissioned to fill the vacant second lieutenancy.
On September 8 the death of J. K. Harvey was reported.
General Banks having succeeded General Butler on Decem-
ber 16 in command of the Department of the Gulf, the troops
in Louisiana were organized as the 19th Army Corps com-
posed of four divisions and Nims' Battery was assigned to
the fourth division commanded by Gen. Cuvier G rover and
ordered to report at Baton Rouge. Here it remained until
March 13, spending much time in drill — drilling on pieces,
as cavalry and with flying movements, and occasionally
doing picket duty.
"At this time, while some of our men were acting as pickets
several miles outside the town, an incident occurred that,
had it taken place in the North would have been called 'a
Yankee trick,' but as it is we disclaim it, and let our Southern
brother have all the honor (?) Some of our men were
acting as mounted pickets, and as they sat upon their horses
looking up the road, and listening for the footfall of horse or
man, a sharp sound of a bell came from the thick timber
land on their side and quickly their ears were open and with
eager eyes they sought to fathom the cause of the sounds,
when tinkle-tinkle-tinkle came the sounds again and as it
fell upon the ears of our men it took them back to their
boyhood days when sent for the cows. They listened for
the welcome sound of tinkle-tinkle-tinkle. Oh it is only an
old cow in the brush: but they soon learned from the bul-
lets' whiz that they had better be moving, and they did."
42 Second Massachusetts Battery
On another occasion Sergeant Lincoln and Privates Carter
and Wilkins were on picket duty on the Port Hudson Road.
Lincoln and Carter were fired on, their horses killed and
Carter badly wounded. He dragged himself through the
woods to a house where he was put into a wagon and brought
to camp. Lincoln was stripped of his equipments and let
The records during this period show that a soldier's life
meant good hard work — even if fighting was not going on.
Battery drill, gun drill, marcliing drill — all these filled the
days and brought the battery to the highest degree of efficiency.
One drill consisted of flying movements, dismounting and
mounting guns and carriages, slinging guns under the limber,
etc., and was nicknamed by the boys "break-neck drill."
Accidents were rare, however. Captain Nims invented new
signals for the use of his men so that the enemy might not
know what orders were being given. Washington's Birth-
day was observed by a grand artillery review by Captain
Closson, chief of artillery, and by raising a large flag across
the camp ground.
The most important duty entrusted to General Banks at
this time was an advance up the Mississippi against Port
Hudson, cooperating with Grant in his movement against
Vicksburg. Bank's force, however, was not strong enough
to carry the works and he therefore turned his attention
to reducing the fortification by other means.
^Port Hudson drew its supplies mainly from Western
Louisiana and Texas by way of the Red River. If this river
could be reached and held, these supplies could be cut off
and communication could be opened with Grant near Vicks-
burg. The Confederates held Alexandria as their chief
point of defense but they extended their outposts as far as the
railroad from New Orleans to Brashear City. Another
earthwork known as Fort Bisland was on the Bayou Teche
sSee The Mississippi: F. V. Greene.
Second Massachusetts Battery 43
and reached to tlie swamps south of the bayou. All this
territory for 50 miles west of the Missississippi is an impassa-
ble network of swamps and lakes, but there is a road from
Brashear City to Alexandria and along this road lay the
line of advance to Red River. Early in January expeditions
had been organized for the purpose of moving up Red River
but it had been found impossible to make a way through
the swamps and bayous, and it was thought necessary to
abandon the project. About this time information was
received that the Confederates had captured on Red River
the ram Queen of the West, and the gunboat De Soto which
had run past the batteries at Vicksburg and descended the
Farragut determined at once to patrol the river above
Port Hudson with his vessels and requested Banks to make
a demonstration against the fortification while he ran past
Banks having assembled his forces at Baton Rouge, on
March 13 the whole force broke camp and marched toward
Port Hudson, the right and center sections with the divisions
of Generals Grover and Emery on the Port Hudson Road and
the left with General Auger's division on the Clinton Road.
The next day Farragut with his fleet started up the river.
The land forces did not get near enough to the works to use their
artillery verj^ effectively, though one section of the 2d Massa-
chusetts was sent within shelling distance of the Confederate
works and fired 50 round of shell into them.
We quote the following from an article in the Boston
Journal written by C. B. Maxwell.
"The army having halted and camped for the night the
sergeants of the first and third detachments came to our
quarters and quietly told the drivers and cannoneers not
to 'turn in.' 'You will be wanted before midnight,' they
said. 'We are going out on the road and we may have some
fun.' So about 10 p. m. we were told in whispers to 'hitch
44 Second Massachusetts Battery
up,' When all was ready, the section moved out giving the
rest of the battery the 'grand sneak' as it were. Lieutenant
Marland was in command I think. Well, we arrived at a
certain point on the road and having passed through the
woods were ordered to halt, unlimber and go into battery.
Said the Ueutenant to the guide: 'Where is Port Hudson?'
'Right ober dar,' was the reply. '"Which way is that?'
'Right ober dat away.' 'How far is it?' 'Oh right
smart aways. I done walk plumb down to de ribber from
break o'day to sun-up.'
"The gunners elevated the pieces and each fired a few shots,
after which all was still and dark as before. The only loud
words spoken were the lieutenant's when he shouted: 'How
do you like that.' Echo answered, 'Where are we at?'
Then we limbered up, thinking of our tents and stole away
back to camp and turned in. In the morning orders to hitch
up were received and the column was soon on the march to
Baton Rouge. So we claim that Nims' Battery fired the
first shot at Port Hudson."
Meanwhile Farragut advanced with his fleet amid a perfect
deluge of shot and shell. Two of his ships, the Hartford
and the Albatross were able to pass the batteries, but all the
others were sunk or disabled. Although so many met with
disaster, Farragut's purpose was fully accomplished, for
the Red River route was hence forward completely blockaded
— a most important object at that time.
As the object of Banks' land expedition had been solely for
the purpose of making a demonstration while the fleet was en
route he immediately returned with his forces to Baton
Rouge. He himseK went on to New Orleans, leaving orders
that another attempt be made to resume the movement to
Accordingly, on the 27th of March the command was taken
by transport Laurel Hill to Donaldsonville, whence it marched
over-land to Brashear City, the trip beginning the 31st and end-
Second Massachusetts Battery 45
ing the 9th of April. On this marcli the battery formed u i)art
of the 2d Brigade,Colonel Kimball, in General G rover's di\ision.
Here it united with the rest of the Army of the Gulf for opera-
tions against the ene^y who were threatening New Orleans
from the rear, the whole numbering about 17,000 men.
^On the morning of the 11th of April the bkttery with
General Grover's division started from Brashear City and
proceeded up the Atchafalaya River. The intention of this
expedition was to get in the rear of the enemy and either
attack them there or cut off their retreat. The grounding
of one of the transports at the entrance of Grand Lake
delayed the troops for twenty-four hours but on the 13th a
landing was made opposite Madame Porter's plantation
thirty miles from Brashear City. Wliile effecting a landing
about 250 Confederates with two pieces of artillery opened
fire and a sharp skirmish ensued in which the Union men took
quite a number of prisoners.
The next day, shortly after daylight, the division again
advanced and early in the morning met a strong force of the
enemy at Irish Bend, a sharp bend in the Teche. Here a
battle took place and after two hours' fighting the enemy
was obliged to retreat leaving many dead on the field and
about 100 prisoners. For the next few days an advance was
made, constant skirmishing going on all the while until on
April 17 we find the battery at New Iberia. Here the left
section under Lieutenant Snow, together with three regiments
marched twelve miles farther to Avery's Island, destroyed the
famous salt works there and captured a large number of
horses. The destruction of these salt works was a very
important measure, as from them the Confederates had been
able to obtain thousands of pounds of salt, thus making them
independent of the United States or England.
The next morning the march was renewed. Generals
Emery and Weitzel on the Bayou Road, General G rover
8 See Off Record, Vol. 15, Report General Grover.
46 Second Massachusetts Battery
on the other. At Vermillion Bayou the enemy, who was
only a short distance in advance, massed in a strong position
on the opposite bank, fired on the Union troops from the
woods, opening with artillery. Nims' Battery and Battery L
of the regulars joined in the artillery duel, forcing the enemy
to retire, but not until they had burned the bridge over the
bayou. The next day the bridge was rebuilt and the advance
continued until on April 20 Opelousas was reached.
While here orders were read from General Banks giving
the troops much credit for capturing over 2000 prisoners, 10
guns, assisting in the destruction of two gunboats and two
transports, the salt works and one fort and also in seizing a
large quantity of arms and equipments, sugar, cotton, molasses,
mules, horses, etc.
At this time, too, one section of the battery under Lieutenant
Snow was detached from the main body and for about a
month served under Colonel Chickering in connection with
the 5th Massachusetts, 41st Massachusetts, 4th Maine,
and a New York regiment. The work done is summarized
as follows: "There was collected and sent to New Orleans
via Brashear upward of 6000 bales of cotton, large quantities
of sugar, molasses, and other products and at least 10,000
contrabands, men, women, and children to work in the govern-
ment plantations in LaFourcheCo." Irwin says :^° "The column
covered in the march the long train that stretched out for
eight miles over the prairies with a motley band of negroes,
horses, and beeves for a cumbrous accompaniment. With
the possible exception of the horde that set out to follow
Sherman's march to the sea, this was the most curious column
ever put in motion since that which defiled after Noah into
On April 22 the right and left sections with the First Bri-
gade, General Dwight, pushed forward through Washington
to the Tableau River where they rebuilt a bridge which had
»" Nineteenth Army Corps, p. 136.
Second Massachusetts Battery 47
been burned. During the day there was a slight skirmish
with the cavalry. In C. B. Maxwell's diary we read: "Our
battery with General Dwight's Brigade. Joe Knowlton and
I crossed river to plantation owTied by a widow and obtained
Some milk and two dozen eggs. Just then the enemy's
force fired on our cavalry pickets, killing one and wounding
several. Joe and I started on double quick each with one
dozen eggs in a handkerchief. Reached camp without losing
or breaking one!"
On the 4th of May the whole army started for Alexandria.
"Captain Dw^ight of General Banks' staff rode past the
brigade with orders and when just in front of the battery he
was fired on from across the bayou and killed. A company
of cavalry was sent out in pursuit and succeeded in capturing
the man who committed the deed. Three days later he was
brought before the brigade and shot."
May 12 Alexandria was reached and after a few days'
rest a start was made for Port Hudson by way of Simsport
and Bayou Sara.
Port Hudson was situated on a high bluff on the east side
of the Mississippi at a sharp bend. Its fortifications were
arranged for defense, the parapets averaging a thickness of
20 feet and the depth of the ditch below the parapet being
not less than 15 feet. Below the landing known as Hickey's
were the first batteries, on a bluff about 40 feet above high-
water mark. Three series of batteries extended along the
river for a continuous line of three miles. Above the creek
was an impassable marsh. From the lower battery ran a
line of land fortifications semi-circular in form and about ten
miles in extent."
The Confederate forces numbered probably about 7000,
the Union forces something over 30,000. General Banks'
troops w^ere commanded by Generals Weitzel, Auger, Grover,
" See Lossing's History of CivU War.
48 Second Massachusetts Battery
and T. W. Sherman, while the Confederate garrison was under
Gen. Frank T. Gardner.
The following extracts will show how the battery was
engaged for the next few weeks.
May 24. Arrived at Bayou Sara at 3 a. m. Marched 13
miles toward Port Hudson. General Grover's division took
first line of rifle pits. Army then formed around Port Hud-
son with Generals Weitzel and Paine on right, General
Grover and Colonel Dudley in center and Generals Auger and
T. W. Sherman on the left. The artillery brigade under
command of General Arnold.
May 25. Battery ordered to relieve Battery L at the
May 26. At noon both sections fell back a half mile and
went into camp to rest the horses, they having been in har-
ness four days and four nights.
Banks was informed that the Confederates were with-
drawing from the post and accordingly orders were given for
a general assault. On the morning of May 27 the artillery
opened upon the garrison, and continued firing all day. The
infantry and navy joined in the attack. One section of
the battery advanced to within 700 j^ards of the enemy's
works and silenced two of their guns, but were in turn silenced
by the enemy. The whole assault was a disastrous failure,
the Union lose being 293 killed and 1549 wounded. The
nezt morning under a flag of truce there was a cessation of
hostilities until afternoon in order to take away the dead and
wounded. "During this intermission of hostilities the better
part of our natures asserted itself, the Blue and the Grey
mingled, and over the works they exchanged coft'ee, tobacco,
bread and even souvenirs, and asked information of each
other: as the time drew near for the opening of hostilities
we parted as friends, cautioning each other to lie low and
so escape each other's bullets. As I saw all this I felt that
God must have a long hard lesson for us to learn that it was
Second Massachusetts Battery 49
needful that men should take each other's lives in cold blood."
Cajpt. E. K. Russell.
Day after day the cannon shelled the works disablinj?
many of the enemy's guns and wearing down the men with
fatigue and watching.
Nims' Battery was on the field almost constantly. In
the diary from which we have already quoted we read:
"Remained in position all day and all night — lead from
sharp shooters falling thick around us, reUeved at 7 p. m.
the next day," and again: "Our section at the front all day
and night, — kept one battery silent," and still again,
"Stretchers are constantly at work bringing in our wounded."
"Keep up fire day and night." "First section under
Lieutenant Hall start out wdth brigade of cavalry under
General Grierson, — engage in battle near CUnton. Cavalry
out of ammunition — obliged to retreat to avoid capture,
reached camp after march of 50 miles." At this time the
center section which had been at Barry's Landing for some
weeks arrived at Port Hudson bringing with them four
recruits from Boston.
The position of the little Union army, which did not
number now more than 12,000 men, was becoming critical,
hemmed in as it was by intensely hostile inhabitants, and
the commander felt the need of a speedy reduction of the
post. Accordingly on June 13 a general bombardment of
two hours took place, and at 12.30 General Banks sent in a
flag of truce calling for the surrender of the fort. General
Gardner's reply was: "Under the present circumstances, I
am unable to surrender." When this answer was received,
arrangements were made for a grand storming on June 14.
"The program of storming was sent by General Paine to all
the officers in his command, that each might know the duty
he had to perform, and was as follows: The 8th New Hamp-
shire and 4th Wisconsin regiments were to act as skirmishers
in the advance, followed three yards in the rear by the 4th
50 Second Massachusetts Battery
Massachusetts and 110th New York with grenades which
were to be thrown over, the instant the skirmishers gained
the top of the works. Next in line was the 31st Massachu-
setts, each man carrying two bags of cotton to be thrown into
the ditch, in order to make a road for the artillery. Then
the 3d, 2d, and 1st brigades followed by Nims' Battery.
At 3 A. M. the line was formed and the march begun. When
within 20 yards of the Fort and under a hea\y cross fire the
order was given, clear and distinct : 'Charge !' and after a long
hard struggle the skirmishers gained the top of the works.
Here they found bayonets and guns presented to their
breasts, the enemy at the same time shouting : 'Surrender or
die.' The brave soldiers looked around for their support but
it had failed them, and forty brave boys had to surrender as
prisoners. We remained all day under a heavy fire from the
enemy and at 9 o'clock withdrew from the field having
gained nothing." Knowlton' s diary.
General Paine was wounded early in the attack, a ball
shattering his leg. He was forced to remain on the field for
twelve hours under a heavy fire, whi e hundreds of others
were in like condition for twenty-four or thirty-six hours,
until under a flag of truce they were brought forward by the
enemy, who would not allow the Union troops to come near
their fortifications. "It would not be just to allow this
record to become history without mentioning the valor dis-
played by some of the colored troops engaged with us on that
occasion. After the assault had failed, and the ground in
our front was strewn with our wounded comrades, these
colored soldiers could be seen by twos crawling on their
knees dragging after them a stretcher and on reaching a
wounded soldier would roll him upon the stretcher, then,
after a moment's rest, they would arise quickly and make a
dash for a shelter from the shower of lead|that|^was sure^to
fall around them." E. K. Russell.
On the 16th General Banks issued an order^for a thou-
Second Massachusetts Battery 51
sand stormers, offering medals to the soldiers and promotions
to the officers, and preparations were making for a third
assault when on July 7 came the news of the surrender of
Vicksburg. This put an end to the hopes of the Confederacy,
and two days later Port Hudson surrendered, 6408 becoming
prisoners of war. In addition to the important post the
spoils of victory included two steamers, 51 pieces of artillery,
5000 small arms and a large quantity of ammunition.
Most important of all, the fall of these two strongholds
gave free navigation of the Mississippi, or in the words of
Lincoln: "The Father of Waters goes unvexed to the sea."
Among other services rendered by Nims' Battery in this
siege it is claimed that one of her guns had the honor of firing
the last shot at Port Hudson and also receiving the last shot
from that same fort. We have already told how it fired the
first shot at this place.
We quote from the story as told by C. B. Maxwell.
"During the siege of Port Hudson and on the occasion of
one of the many assaults on the fortifications by the Federal
army, there was captured a young soldier, of the 165th New
York Zouaves. He was a bright, active lad, and while
captive had his eyes open to chances, especially to making
his escape. Among the things he saw was a mill in the town
near the river, wherein they ground all their corn, and as
that was all they had to eat it occurred to him that it would
be a misfortune to himself as well as to the enemy if by any
accident that mill should be destroyed. So he paid closer
attention then ever to getting through the lines to reach his
regiment, where rations were better both in quality and
quantity, and near the end of the siege he was successful. In
relating his experience he said of the corn mill: 'If they
hadn't had, that I should have been obliged to take my corn
on the ear.'
"This having been reported to headquarters. General
Banks sent for Captain Nims and said to him :
52 Second Massachusetts Battery
" 'Send over a section of your battery to a point opposite
and throw a few of those percussion shells into that mill. It
may weaken their power of endurance. The soldier mil go
along to point out the mill. Of course, if you draw the fire
of those heavy batteries, you will retire and report back to
"And so the first section, Lieutenant Hall commanding,
made a night march to a boat landing some miles below,
where a steamboat was in readiness 'to tote' us across. On
the other side we marched up, being protected from view of
enemy by a very high levee on that side of the river, to a
point commanding a good view of the town opposite. Then
all hands went to work with shovels, which we came pro-
vided with, cutting an embrasure and space to work a gun,
thus making a good fort, as it were, in a short time. We
then hauled the gun up the slope into position. The men not
engaged in working the gun were lying on the grassy slope
of the levee watching the effect of the shell on 'the large
building with a nearly flat roof.' The zouave was reclining
on his side with head and shoulders exposed above the levee,
as were the rest.
"There had been two or three shots fired when Lieutenant
Hall, looking through his field glass, remarked : 'Those were
good line shots, but a little too high; just put them in on the
ground floor.' Suddenly a puff of smoke curled up from the
water batteries, and a 6 -inch solid shot plowed a furrow
across the top of the levee, and to our horror and amaze-
ment instantly killed our friend the 'Zou Zou.' We retired,
quietly and quickly, after burying the body then and there
making our way back by the same route by which we came,
and took our place in line with the rest of the battery in
time to march into Port Hudson, the surrender having been
made that day. Negotiations to that end were going on the
day before, while we were making the attack on the corn-
mill, though of course unknown to us."
Second Massachusetts Battery 53
The 10th of July the battery was ordered on lioard the
Laurel Hill for Baton Rouge, but on reaching the wharf found
the steamer already overcrowded. Consequently orders
were given to march that distance. Accordingly with nine
other batteries and the infantry it began a tedious all night
march, many of the men, who had been up for three nights,
falling asleep on their horses. At Baton Rouge transports
were taken for Donaldsonville where skirmishing was going
on with a hostile force under Dick Taylor. Before the
reinforcement arrived the enemy retreated, but as an attack
was expected the right and left sections of the battery were
immediately ordered on picket duty, where they remained
for the next two days without, however, encountering the
A stay of two weeks at Donaldsonville was followed by a
march to Carrollton and then to New Orleans in company
with Battery L, the 159th New York and a large wagon
train all under command of Colonel Molineaux. This march
was exceedingly trying on account of the excessive heat
which exhausted the men and killed two or three horses.
While at Donaldsonville four members of the company
who had been taken prisoners at Brashear City, while in
hospital there, arrived and were sent to New Orleans, being
The battery arrived at New Orleans on August 5, took up
quarters in the Mississippi Cotton Press, where it remained
from the 6th of August to the 17th of September.
First Lieutenant Hall having resigned, his juniors were
promoted in turn, and First Sergeant Joseph K. Greenleaf
of Boston was commissioned as junior second lieutenant.
Early in October Second Lieut. Edw. K. Russell was pro-
moted and transferred to the 6th Massachusetts Battery,
creating a vacancy which was filled some time later by the
commissioning of First Sergeant Lucian A. Hodgdon of
Somerville. At the same time Gunner Swan was made
54 Second Massachusetts Battery
sergeant of the 2d detachment, Corporal Ellis gunner of the
3d detachment and Private Taylor corporal of the 2d
During the stay in New Orleans the battery was com-
manded to mount as horse or flying artillery and to join the
cavalry division of the 19th Army Corps. Associated with
them were two other batteries, one from Missouri, and one
from the regular army, and Captain Nims was appointed
Chief of Artillery of the 19th Army Corps, Col. A. L. Lee,
and was made a member of Colonel Lee's staff.
The first parade of these batteries as horse artillery (at
which Nims' Battery held the post of honor), took place
September 5, and was witnessed by Generals Banks, Arnold,
Franklin and many other officers. The following letter,
a copy of which was found among Colonel Nims' papers, is
a proof of their high opinion of this new organization.
Office, Chief of Artillery.
Hd. Qrs. Dept. of the Gulf,
New Orleans, September 7, 1863.
Capt. O. F. Nims,
Chief of Artillery, 19th Army Corps.
It becomes my great pleasure to communicate to yourself
and the batteries under your command on the 5th inst., the
high commendation of the Commanding General of the De-
partment of the Gulf and the Adjutant General of the United
States Army. They were pleased to express the belief that
no artillery in the service could be more thorough in their
equipments and general appointments.
Please communicate the above to each battery commander.
Your ob'd't servant
Brig. Gen. and Chief of Artillery.
Second Massachusetts Battery 55
On the 17th of September another movement began
toward the interior of Louisiana. Tlie object of this entire
movement was to divert the enemy from Banks' expedition
into Texas which he was about to undertake. Accordingly
he ordered the command of wliich the batterj^ was a part to
advance under Gen. C. C. Washburne from Brashear City
to Opelousas, to give the impression that a march to Alexandria
or Shreveport was begun. The battery left New Orleans
on September 18 and the next day reached Brashear City,
which had been evacuated by the Confederates in July after
securing about 1000 prisoners together with suppHes valued
at $2,000,000. A week later an advance was mad,e to Bis-
land and then on to Opelousas, which was reached October
24. All along the advance, skirmishing and fighting occurred
almost every day, and in it all the battery did its part most
creditably. At Indian Bend, October 2, the left and center
divisions, which were in the advance, met the enemy and
drove them back. Two days later at VermiUion Bayou the
same sections forced the enemy once more to fall back.
Agam the right section at Vermillion Bayou contended with
the enemy for a ford for over three hours, driving them com-
pletely from their position. Again we read in our diaries:
"The right and center moved forward with the advance
cavalry came in sight of the enemy's camp. They retired
leaving for us a good dinner of beef steak, sweet potatoes,
and corn cake all piping hot. Pieces of our shell picked up
near camp fires about two miles away." Two days later,
"Just at dusk, the enemy advanced on our pickets. A section
of the battery was sent for, hitched up with a will, crossed
the plains on a gallop and in 18 minutes from the time the
first order was given we had gained the distance and com-
menced firing. Time taken by Colonel MoHneaux."
October 15. "The enemy came out on the open plain,
drew themselves up in fine of battle and commenced firing on
56 Second Massachusetts Battery
our pickets. This battery was ordered to the front at double
quick and at 7 a. m. we were at the extreme advance — we
opened a heavy j&re which caused them to break for the
woods. At 9 A. M. Captain Simmes' Battery opened on us
from a masked position — we dismounted one gun and ex-
ploded their ammunition chest forcing them to retreat. A
piece of one of our shells cut off the head of one, passed through
another and killed his horse — deadly work."
October 21 . "6 a, m. whole force moved forward, the battery
with advance cavalry. At 7 a. m. met the enemy in Hne of
battle. Right section with cavalry engaged left flank while
remaining section engaged them in front. We succeeded in
driving them back on the flank and then in front and they
retreated in disorder. Our troops followed to Opelousas
when right section with cavalry branched off to Barry's
Landing and went into camp after a hard march over
ditches, through corn field, etc. October 28. A running
fight for 17 miles. Center section with Grover's division at
And so it goes day after day till Opelousas is reached, and
on November 1 a retrograde movement is ordered. Here
again we find the battery in the post of danger, acting often
as rear guard, skirmishing with the enemy.
Under the date of November 2 we read: "7 a. m. enemy
fired on our pickets. Section ordered on the double quick
to the front about a half mile away. We opened fire and
after a short skirmish drove them four miles and then fell
back slowly across the plain to djaw them into a fight. They
followed and when withjn short range we opened on them
with shell which broke up their line. We pursued them
again till 4 p. m. when we gave up the chase and returned
to camp. Generals Washburne and Burbridge were with
us during the engagement and gave us much credit." This
battle is known as that of Carrion Crow Bayou.
Second Massachusetts Battery 57
The next day. November 3, marks another occasion when
the battery won especial honor for itself, and as we read in
General Burbridge's report — "did more than its whole
At Grand Coteau, the Confederate forces includinf^ cavalry
and artillery — about 5500 in number, under General Greene
— surprised the camp and nearly captured it. The right
under General Burbridge on whom the weight of the attack
fell w^as almost surrounded and ruin seemed inevitable.
The section of the battery under Lieutenant Marland was
attacked, the enemy being in so short range that the guns
could not be brought into action, and while part were endeav-
oring to work the guns others were harnessing the horses.
A desperate conflict ensued, the guns keeping up a heavy
fire. Regiment after regiment of infantry was brought up
as support but gave w^ay until the battery was almost sur-
rounded. It was at last obliged to fall back, the cannoneers
fighting their way with their revolvers; but bringing off their
guns in triumph. Before they had retreated far they saw
coming to their aid on the double quick General Cameron's
Brigade of the 13th Corps. They immediately halted, got
their guns in position and renewed the conflict, chasing the
enemy back four miles, and securing thus a Union victory.
When General Franklin was told of this experience he said,
"If there is ever another opportunity of racing a section of
Nims' Battery give it your two best regiments for support,
for it is the finest battery in the United States." One
historian in relating this incident says, "Nims' Battery saved
The following is the official report of Lieutenant Marland
as given in Official Records, Vol. 26, p. 371.
"Off. Records. Vol. 26. p. 361.
58 Second Massachusetts Battery
Carrion Crow Bayou.
"In pursuance to your orders I have the honor to make the
following report of the part taken in the action at this place
on the 3rd of November by the section under my command.
"In obedience to orders received on the evening of the 2d of
November I harnessed up at 4 a. m. on the 3rd, remaining
so until 11 A. M. when I was ordered to unharness — the pickets
firing all the while.
At about 11.45 p. m. the firing became general. Hearing
the cavalry buglers blow Boots and Saddles, I began to
harness up on my own responsibility and was attacked in
camp before I could get harnessed. The enemy being within
400 yards of me I opened on them with canister and percus-
sion shell which checked their advance and drove them to
the right. I limbered to the front and advanced to the fork
of the road which is about 100 yards. Went into battery
and fired a few shot until my support all had left me. Find-
ing it too warm, I limbered to the rear and moved 300 yards.
Finding the enemy in my rear and on the right, I fired to the
right about 50 shot and was charged on three sides. A
regiment came up on my left as support, fired one volley and
left. The enemy then opened two pieces of artillery on me
at about 300 yards killing one horse and disabling one caisson
wheel. The cavalry still advancing and no infantry to be
seen I limbered up and started for the woods. Here I
ordered my cannoneers to draw their revolvers and had quite
a brisk fight. Had another horse killed, and two men missing.
Went through the woods the enemy coming out in rear and
front of men. As the bridges were held by the enemy, it was
necessary to charge through, which was accomphshed, with-
out loss. I came up to the 46th Indiana and formed on their
right. Colonel Bringhurst told me he would support me
and I went back through the woods with General Cameron's
command, driving the enemy in disorder who left dead and
Second Massachusetts Battery 59
wounded on the field. I then returned to camp with General
"I am sir, very respectfully,
"Your most ob't servant,
"1st Lieut. Com. Sec.
"Brig. Gex. Richard Arnold,
"Chief of Artillery. Dept. Gulf.''
We also quote from Major General C. C. Washburnc,
^^"The bringing off of the section of Nims' Battery, after
the regiment sent to its support had surrendered, extorted
the admiration of every beholder."
In this engagement Sergeant Burwell and Private Smith
were taken prisoners, while three horses were killed, seven
wounded and the gun carriages damaged somewhat.
The entire battery was brought together at Vermillion
River and on November 2 it took a prominent part in the
engagement at that point, — maintaining a brisk artillery
duel with the enemy and after two hours hard fighting and
firing 120 shell it succeeded in dri\dng them from the field.
We quote from the diary of W. G. Hidden :
"Right and left sections with 1300 infantry and cavalry,
all under General Lee, started at 5 a. m. on the Opelousas
Road? met the enemy's pickets one mile out and drove them
before us. At 10 a. m. we arrived at the edge of a plain and
saw the enemy drawn up in line of battle about two miles
distant. The right section was ordered into position and
fired twenty shell, causing them to disclose their whole force
of about 6000. General Lee then ordered a retreat. Arriving
at a plam outside the town, we found a brigade of infantry
with 4th Massachusetts Battery lying low in the bushes.
We moved our guns into the bushes just hi^h enough to con-
ceal us from the enemy and waited. They soon formed a
«3 Off. Records, Vol. 26, p. 358.
60 Second Massachusetts Battery
line of battle about 1000 yards in front. Right section
opened fire and the first charge emptied fifteen saddles.
Their cavalry then charged on our left. Left section engaged
them while we engaged the front. Cavalry was forced to
retreat. Their artillery having got into position, opened fire
on us and did some fine shooting. Their shells burst all
around us plowing the ground and killing some of our
infantry, but our men escaped injury. After two hours
fighting the enemy retreated and we returned to camp.
This is called The Artillery Skirmish at Vermillionville."
On November 16 the entire force started for New Iberia,
the battery acting as rear guard and burning the bridge across
the river after all were over. One writes : "It was a splendid
sight to see the army form, — each part separate, and then
unite to form a fine and move off over the prairie with bands
playing " The next day New Iberia was reached and prep-
arations were made for the winter. At the same time
skirmishing was going on and many prisoners were taken.
We read: "A small rebel force known as Camp Pratt was six
miles out. At 1 a. m. the center section started out on one
road to get in its rear. At 4 a. m. the right section with
cavalry and part of Cameron's Brigade of the 13th Corps
started on another road for the same point. Arriving at
daybreak all made an attack on the camp and captured 175
out of 200 — twelve of these being officers. While marching
them into town two bands came to meet us. One was placed
in front, the other in the rear of the prisoners, and so we
marched through the town to the tune of our national airs."
About this time Lieutenant Slack of Chelsea of the 13th
Massachusetts was placed in command of the left section
of the battery in the absence of Lieutenant Snow, who had
gone North for recruits. Christmas Day, by exchange of
prisoners, Sergeant Burwell and Private Smith, who had been
taken at Grand Coteau November 3 were returned to the
Second Massachusetts Battery Gl
battery. "They were ragged and dirty, having had a hard
The month of December was devoted largely to drilling.
Recruits kept coming in and these had to be made into sol-
diers. Captain Nims instituted a new set of bugle calls, mak-
ing in all twenty-eight calls a day. January 1, 1864, was the
coldest day the men had experienced since leaving home.
Snow and rain made camp life uninviting and difHcult. Never-
theless reenlistments were in order, and at this time several
of the boj^s entered upon another three years' service.
Early in the year the force was moved out to Franklin,
half way to Brashear City, and there made winter quarters.
The roads thither were in terrible condition — deep with nmd
and water with a frozen crust on top, and three days were
required to travel a distance of 23 miles. The horses were in
poor condition from lack of hay and grain and only a limited
supply of corn, and five died from exhaustion on this short
trip. Here three months were spent in camp, the men taking
possession of the cabins formerly occupied by the negroes,
who had long since gone to the contraband camp in New
Orleans. Much time was given to the drilling of recruits,
while about 25 of the men who had reenlisted were given
furloughs of 30 days.
A copy of the program of an evening's entertainment at the
Cooper Institute (an old cooper's shop fitted up) will doubtless
recall pleasant memories of camp life the winter of '63-'64.
A Grand Entertainment will be given at the above place on Friday, March
4, 1864, by the members of Nims' Battery, under the direction of the follow-
ing committee: A. B. Burwell, President; J. F. Robertson, Secretary:
C. B. Maxwell, Manager.
W. Kane, L. W. Swan, A. N. Norcross, C. Dul)ois, \V. D. Hutls, D.
Murray, J. S. Knowlton, H. T. Bates and W. G. Hidden.
62 Second Massachusetts Battery
The committee take great pleasure in amiouncing to their friends, that the
following distinguished Artists have generously volunteered their services.
A sufficient number of Special Police will be in attendance to enforce good
Music by Knowlton and Co.'s Military Band.
Doors open at 6: commence at 7: terminate at 10.
Carriages ordered at half-past 9.
Grand Introductory Overture,
Song, The Sword of Bunker Hill,
Song, What a Row de dow.
A Little Spouting,
Song, Virginia Rosebud,
Song, How are you, Jeff Davis.'
Song, Faded Flowers,
Song, I Dream of Home,
Grand Walk Around,
Song, The Cove what Sprouts,
Dubois and DeFlanders
Flemming and Frerari
Dubois and DeFlanders
Mortimer and Baker
Wilkinson and Ward
Dubois and DeFlanders
J. S. Knowlton
Ellis and Comfort
C. B. Maxwell
Dubois and DeFlanders
Connors and Baker
J. S. Knowlton
Dubois and LeClair
By the Band
Sullivan and Raymond
J. S. Knowlton
McGrath and Baker
Comfort, Kenny and Connors
Mortimer and Connors
Second Massachusetts Battery G3
Similar entertainments followed and were always given to
On February 7 Lieutenant Russell received appointment
as first lieutenant in the 6th Massachusetts Battery where he
later received promotion to the rank of captain. During
the same month about seventy recruits arrived from Massa-
chusetts, so that drilling appears again as the order of the
day. Nor was this time wasted, for it was evident that an
army movement was soon to take place.
Early in March preparations were made for the Red River
campaign, the object of which was the capture of Shreveport
on the Red River, the dispersion of the Confederates in that
region and ultimately the recovery of Texas by the line of the
Red River. There were serious objections to this route
and certain precautionary measures were necessary if the
end were to be accomplished, but these were not carried into
As the batterj^ was not brigaded we find it first in one
division then another, wherever there was difficult service
and danger to be encountered.
The general plan was that Banks with all the forces at his
command should march his troops over-land to Alexandria,
there to be joined by Gen. A. J. Smith with a force of about
10,000 men, detached from Sherman's army, who were to be
transported up the river in company with Admiral Porter's
fleet. At the same time it was expected that General Steele
would cooperate in the movement with a force of about 15,000
men. As General Banks was obUged to be in New Orleans
at this time the arrangements for his part of the movement
were entrusted to General Franklin.
General Franklin's forces consisted of the entire 19th
Army Corps and the 3d and 4th divisions of the 13th Army
Corps, in command of General Ransom, the whole force
numbering some 16,000, all under Major General Franklin.
The cavalry division of the 19th Army Corps was commanded
64 Second Massachusetts Battery
by Gen. A. L, Lee, and to this division Nims' Battery, equip-
ped as horse artillery, had been assigned.
The troops were supposed to start from Franklin on the
7th of March and arrive at Alexandria the 13th, but owing
to some delay they were unable to leave until the 13th. On
that day General Lee moved with his command in advance
of the regular army. His force consisted of the 1st, 3d, 4th
and 5th brigades of the cavalry division, Nims' Battery
of 6 guns — ^Rawles' Battery of 4 guns — and a battery of
mountain howitzers manned by a company of 6th Missouri
Cavalry, all equipped as horse artillery, a total of about
3300. There was a halt the next morning at five for an
hour's rest and then on again. Long trying marches followed,
23 miles one day, 30 the next, 20 the next, 30 the next until
the 19th of March, when 33 miles were made in 12 hours.
Although one section of the battery reached Alexandria the
19th and another the 21st, the whole column did not arrive
before the 25th. Here General Banks again assumed com-
mand and three days were spent in resting, refitting, and
It had been intended to carry supplies the whole distance
in the attack on Shreveport by water, but the river was so
low that not many of the transports could pass and it was
found necessary to establish a supply station at Alexandria,
and a wagon train to take supplies from the vessels below to
vessels above the rapids. To protect this, called for a force
of about 3000 men. General Grover was placed in charge
of this post and his division left for its defense. The troops
on the transport were also unable to pass the rapids and were
accordingly recalled to the Mississippi. Consequently,
General Banks found himseK ready to move out from Alexan-
dria with a force of only about 20,000 men, while he could
not expect any cooperation from General Steele. Even
at the beginning of April experts foretold the failure of the
expedition. The march into the enemy's country began
Second Massachusetts Battery C5
on the 28th of March, and from that time the command was
in active service. The Confederates constantly retreated,
frequentl}^ stopping to skirmish, but offering no serious
Natchitoches was reached on April 3, the cavalry division
camping just outside the towm where a halt of a day or two
was made. On the 6th the march toward Shreveport was
begun at daylight, the battery marching in the center of the
division as reserve artillery. In addition to the troops there
was a train of 200 wagons carrying ten days' rations for the
men, three days' forage, ammunition, and camp equipage.
General Lee's orders from General Franklin w^ere "to attack
the enemy wherever he could be found but not to bring on a
general engagement." No enemy was seen that day. The
next morning the march was renewed until on reaching Wil-
son's Farm, three miles from Pleasant Hill, a considerable
Confederate force was found posted in the woods on a hill.
An engagement ensued between the enemy and the third
brigade with two sections of the IVIissouri and Illinois bat-
teries. The resistance was so strong that the 1st Brigade
was advanced as support, and with this, two sections of Nims'
Battery, 0\\4ng to the dense woods the battery, although
at the front, could not go into action and was ordered into
position with the 4th Brigade, Colonel Dudley, in line of
battle in the rear. With the aid of the reinforcements the
enemy was forced to retreat slowly and Colonel Lee and his
forces bivouacked five miles beyond the battlefield.
The next day came the terrible experience of Sabine Cross
Roads or Mansfield as it is sometimes called, where the bat-
tery met with disaster for the first time.
On that day, April 8, the battery started in the advance—
with the 1st Brigade, under Colonel Lucas, and a Brigade of
the 4th division of the 13th Army Corps, Colonel Landram
commanding, which had been sett forward during the night.
Following this came the 4th Brigade Cavalry, Colonel Dudley
66 Second Massachusetts Battery
in command, and then the 5th Brigade, under Colonel Robin-
son, in charge of the long wagon train and the artillery which
was not in the front. By noon an advance had been made
of about ten miles, the enemy contesting every foot of the
way. The woods on each side of the road were very dense,
which made it difficult to move in line and the marching was
tedious and tiring to the men. Almost no water was to be
found. At this time General Ransom arrived with the 2d
Brigade of the 13th Army Corps to relieve the 1st Brigade
of its duty.
About four miles from Mansfield the road ran through a
clearing in front of a hill of considerable height where the
timber was not quite so thick as it had been elsewhere.
This point was chosen as the scene of the engagement. A
description of the arrangement of troops may be taken from
Colonel Lee's report :^^
"Two regiments of the 4th Brigade Cavalry, Colonel
Dudley, were placed on the flank, deployed in the woods. The
Second Illinois Cavalry formed a half mile in rear of the first
line. Nims' Battery was placed in position at the crest of the
hill, in and to the right and left of the road. A section of the
Sixth Missouri Howitzer was placed at its left. A brigade
of infantry was placed in the front, one regiment to the left
of Nims' Battery, the others to the right. A second brigade
was placed on our right flank, facing the enemy who appeared
in that direction. The First Brigade Cavalry, Col. T. J.
Lucas commanding, was placed on the extreme right of the
line and fought dismounted. With this brigade was a section
of the 6th Missouri Howitzer Battery and a section of Rawles'
Battery. The Third Brigade was in the rear escorting the
train which was halted a mile and a half from our front."
About 1 p. M. General Banks and his staff arrived and Gen-
eral Lee reported to him the arrangements of his troops and
the apparent position and strength of the enemy and his
"Ofif. Rec, Vol. 34 p. 451.
Second Massachusetts Battery 67
opinion that the carmy must either fall back or be reinforced
by infantry. General Banks gave orders that the jiosilion
should be maintained and at the same time sent to General
FrankHn to hurry forward the infantry.
About 4.30 the enemy, made a general attack in front
and right flank, driving infantry and cavalry, back to
the hne where the battery was stationed. The guns
of the battery were being fired as rapidly as possible with
double charges of canister, and although many of the men
were recruits, having had no experience under fire, every
one of them stood up to his work as bravely as the veterans.
When, however, the infantry support failed (except for the
23d Wisconsin and 19th Kentucky), orders were given to re-
tire in order that the guns might not fall into the hands of the
enemy. Three of the guns had to be left on the field as the
horses had been killed. At the foot of the hill a stand was
made, but the rout had become so general that the battery
could not maintain its position and was almost surrounded by
the enemy. Orders were therefore given to retreat.
About a mile from the battlefield was the wagon train of
the cavalry division, which had become blocked in the ruts
and mud and entirely obstructed the narrow road.
The road was so obstructed at this point and the rush of
retreating forces so great that it became necessary to abandon
the remaining three guns, together with caissons, baggage
wagons, battery wagon and forges.
To account for the position of the cavalry train we quote
from the ^^ report of Col. John G. Chandler, acting cliief
"Both General Franklin and General Lee wanted the
cavalry train to move in the rear of the infantry force, but
they disagreed as to the precedence of position when the
trains should be joined. General Lee desired that his train
should precede General Franklin's infantry train, and the
n Off. Rec, Vol. 34 p. 238.
68 Second Massachusetts Battery
latter insisted that the infantry trains should move in the
rear of the infantry force. Because of this disagreement no
change was made on the day of the engagement."
We give here an account of the engagement as taken from
the records of C. B. Maxwell and J. S. Knowlton:
"At 6 A. M. we started for the advance, marched three miles
and came upon a large force of the enemy under Dick Taylor.
Two brigades of the 13th Army Corps were sent to us as
reinforcements and formed a line of battle, acting as skir-
mishers. The enemy commenced slowly falling back but
closely contending every inch of ground, and in this way we
drove them ten miles. At Sabine Cross Roads the enemy
made a stand in the woods before which was a clearing of
some 75 acres where our cavalry manoeuvred. The enemy
was very strongly reinforced at this point. At the extreme
front was a hill 50 yards in diameter upon which our six guns
were placed. The 4th Brigade of cavalry was on our left
with two of the 6th Missouri Howitzers.
"About three o'clock General Banks and his staff arrived.
General Lee, on seeing General Banks dismount, saluted and
said: T am confident. General, that we have a powerful
force in front and if we make the attack I am confident we
shall be repulsed.' General Banks made no reply, but it
was noticed he looked serious. All the staff officers with those
of General Lee were sent hurriedly to right, left and rear.
About 4 p. M. General Banks' chief of staff rode along our
left to where the third piece stood and said to me (Maxwell),
'Call your men, load your gun and point it down the road.
If you see anyone crossing where the road enters the wood,
open fire. Don't wait for further orders.' In less than
fifteen minutes the enemy were sneaking across the road and
the third detachment obeyed orders. The battle was on.
We soon discovered men coming out of the woods much nearer
than those down the road, so we fired to the front and right
until they came to point-blank range and then we fed it to
Second Massachusetts Battery 09
them with double-shotted canister. AUhough llie battle
was very severe, we received no reinforcements except the
3d division of the 13th Corps. Owing to the superior force
of the enemy, our cavalry and infantry were driven back,
leaving the hill on which our six guns were planted with our
support of 23d Wisconsin and 19th Kentucky to fight nearly
"Our guns belched forth double-shotted canister and the
enemy in front, eight deep in line, suffered terribly at each
discharge. Wide gap^ were opened in their ranks but were
immediately filled up again. Finally, all the horses on three
of our guns were killed, making it impossible to remove the
guns from the field. The remaining three guns being out
of ammunition retired to the foot of the hill where our caisson
lay, filled up with ammunition and went into position. By
this time infantry and cavalry had become completely routed
and were fleeing to the rear. Our officers tried to rally them
but in vain. Finding it impossible to save the guns, our
officers ordered us to slip our traces and save our fives if
possible, which the men did reluctantly. Our wagon train
had been pushed forward before the engagement, completely
blocking the road, making a retreat impossible. During the
night we fell back to Pleasant Hill, a distance of 13 miles, and
in the morning our company assembled under Lieutenant
Greenleaf. We had lost our guns and everything we pos-
sessed except the clothes we had on."
The loss of the battery in this battle was very severe.
Lieutenant Snow was shot through the left lung and left on
the field. Private Reardon was killed. Lieutenant Slack
was wounded, 18 men were wounded, of whom fi^•e were
taken prisoners, together with seven unwounded men. Be-
sides the loss of guns and caissons, 82 of the battery's horses
were either killed or wounded. In spite of the terrible defeat
and loss, the battery won great praise for its indomitable
courage and for the way it handled its guns, for we read in
70 Second Massachusetts Battery
the report of Col. J. W. Landrum/^ "It is proper to say that
Captain Niins' Battery displayed throughout the whole of
the fight an example of coolness and true courage unsurpassed
in the annals of history. They are entitled to highest com-
mendation, and although they lost their guns it is due to
them to say that they could not have prevented it, and that
the damage they inflicted on the enemy was such as to entitle
them to the thanks of the whole army."
Another quotation is from the Lacon, 111., Gazette," "Nims'
Battery worked manfully — the veteran battery, hero of
seventeen engagements, all successful, but doomed this time
to defeat. They double charged their guns with canister
and adding a bag of bullets mowed the enemy down only
to have their places filled by the advancing hordes." Again,
"Nims' splendid battery with its honorable record on every
field from Baton Rouge to Port Hudson was taken by
Walker's men." Irwin.
Brig. Gen. W. H. Emery, commanding First Division of
the 19th Army Corps, had been notified of the state of affairs
and had been ordered to advance as rapidly as possible and
form a line of battle in order to support the retreating troops
and check the advance of the enemy. He took his position
at Pleasant Grove about three miles from Sabine Cross
Roads, the First Brigade, General Dwight, being placed
across the road upon which the enemy was advancing. Wait-
ing until the enemy was within close range they poured a
tremendous volley along the whole front, causing it to fall
back. The action lasted for an hour and a half, then dark-
ness coming on there was a cessation of hostilities. During
the night the entire army retired to Pleasant Hill, where a
battle was fought the next day, but in which the battery
naturally took no part. The struggle, however, was desper-
ate and sanguinary. The defeat of the enemy was complete
" Off. Rec. Vol. 34 p. 293.
17 Putman's Record of the Rebellion, Vol. 8.
Second Massachusetts Battery 71
and their loss in officers and men more than double that
sustained by the Union forces.
It was a sorry looking company of men that gathered at
Pleasant Hill the next morning — the remnant of "the finest
battery in the army." Guns, caissons, wagon and supphes
lost — nothing left but the clothes the men wore. As for
blankets, one rubber and one woolen blanket had to do for
five men, while half rations only made one all the more
The next day the remaining men were assigned to guard
the ammunition train on the retreat to Grand Ecore, which
was reached on the 10th. Here the Union army gathered
its scattered battalions.
As the members of the battery were without equipment,
they were ordered to New Orleans, and on the 19th went on
board the little steamer Meteor, arriving at New Orleans on
the 22d, where they remained until the 10th of May. During
their stay in New Orleans occurred an event which showed
the pleasant relation existing # between the members of the
battery and its commander. The following quotation is
taken from the New Orleans Era of April 26, 1864.
Presentation of a Sword to Captain Orivl\nd F. Nims,
2d Massachusetts Light Horse Artillery
Yesterday afternoon was the occasion of quite a little sur-
prise party at the quarters of the 2d Massachusetts Light
Horse Battery. Captain Nims was presented with a mag-
nificent sword, sash and belt, by the non-commissioned
officers and men who still represent the original members of
this fine command, and who have long wished for an oppor-
tunity of expressing in some such manner their appreciation
of the constant care and watchfulness for their welfare exhib-
ited at all times and under all circumstances by Captam
Nims, as well as to present a lasting memento of their respect
72 Second Massachusetts Battery
and affection for their beloved commander. It was but a
well-merited tribute to sterling worth. This splendid sword
was manufactured by Tiffany & Co., of New York, and is
one of the finest ever got up by that firm. The presentation
speech, made by Joshua F. Robertson, was as follows:
"Captain, I have been requested by the members of this
command to say a few words on presenting you this token
of our high esteem. It is now nearly three years since you
took command of this battery, and I am confident, sir, that
I express the sentiments of us all when I say that we have
never had cause to regret, but much rather to rejoice, that
you have commanded the 2d Massachusetts Battery. Your
example as a soldier and a gentleman, your example on the
battlefield and in camp, your forbearance and leniency
towards us, your kind attention to many of us during the
long and tedious hours of sickness, have endeared you to us
by ties of friendship which we trust may never be forgotten.
Those members of the battery who, in the first campaign in
this Department, fell victims to disease contracted in the
swamps opposite Vicksburg, and who now sleep beside the
honored dead at Baton Rouge and in the cemeteries of this
city — methinks that if our shrill morning reveille could but
awake them, they would reiterate what I now say, that you,
by your constant watchfulness, kindness and attention, did
all that lay in human power to alleviate their sufferings. In
asking you to accept this sword, we know that it will never
be drawn but in the cause of freedom, in which we are all
battUng, and never will be sheathed in disgrace. In after
years, when this wicked rebellion shall have been crushed,
and should it be our good fortune to return with you to our
fair New England homes, we hope this memento we now
present you will at least serve to remind you of the pleasant
associations and the many trying scenes through which we
have passed. In conclusion, let me say, sir, that you will
ever bear with you the best wishes of every man under your
Second Massachusetts Battery 73
command, and we hope that hereafter, in what position so-
ever you may be placed— whether in command of the !2d
Massachusetts Battery or in a higher station— the same
good feeUng may exist between you and those under your
command that has ever existed between yourself and the
members of this battery."
"Fellow Soldiers of the 2d Massachusetts Battery— I
cannot express to you the feelmgs of surprise and astonish-
ment with which the present occasion had filled me. I need
not remind you that I am no speech maker, for you are
well aware that I am a man of but few words. I fear, how-
ever, that you have overrated the little it has laid in my
power to do for your comfort, wehare and efficiency. But
of one thing, I feel conscious, gentlemen, and that is, that I
have endeavored to do my duty by you, by my country,
and by myself. Rest assured that I shall ever look upon
the present as one of the happiest moments of my life, and
that your highly prized gift shall never be drawn but in the
cause of freedom and of our common country. Accept, gentle-
men, my sincere and heartfelt thanks."
The boys dispersed to their quarters with six rousing cheers
for Captain Nims, who, truth to say, was almost overpowered
by his feelings, so completely was he taken by surprise.
We also quote the Special Order No 1 issued April 28, as
still further indicating the honor given to the battery by
commander and other officers.
Special Order No. 1
"The commandant takes this method of congratulating
his command upon the part which they took in the engage-
ment at Sabine Cross Roads, La., on the 8th inst., and of
thanking them not only for himself, but also in behalf of the
general commanding the division, and the general command-
74 Second Massachusetts Battery
ing in the field, for the gallantry, courage, and efficiency with
which you conducted yourselves in the trying position in
which you were placed. Although it has been your mis-
fortune to lose your guns, it is gratifying to know that it was
through no dereUction or shortcoming on your part; having
done all that lay in your power as brave men to do. We
must submit to the misfortune with the best grace we may.
Your commandant would also express his satisfaction at the
sorrow exhibited on all hands at your misfortune, by officers
of every grade in the service as well as by civilians, which
tends to show in a clearer light the golden opinions you have
won on all hands. Your commandant is proud not only at
the battle of Sabine Cross Roads but in every other battle
in which you have been engaged. He gives the credit all to
you, and hopes you will continue to deserve the high enco-
miums so universally bestowed upon you and to maintain in
all places, whether in camp or in the field, your good name
untarnished." Per Order,
While in New Orleans still another presentation took place.
This time a handsome pistol and equipments were presented
to Captain Nims by members of the battery who were not
included in the first presentation. A few words may be
quoted from a paper giving an account of this event: "It
is quite refreshing to observe the almost fatherly care and
affection for his men exhibited by Captain Nims and the
respect, — we had almost said adoration — combined with
the most perfect discipline on the part of his men for their
On the 10th of May the battery was transported to Carroll-
ton, where an outfit of light guns and horses was furnished
them to be used in defense of New Orleans. All troops
quartered in New Orleans were ordered to Carrollton because
of the smallpox which was raging in the city. Private
Second Massachusetts Battery 75
Marsh of the 2d Battery died of this disease at the United
States Hospital on May 13. On the 18th of June, Lieutenant
Snow and the other members of the battery taken at Sabine
Cross Roads arrived at New Orleans, having been lately
paroled. Two, however, had died of their wounds. Privates
Maxwell and Howarth.
During the stay a handsome guidon was presented to the
members of the battery by Massachusetts friends then
residing in New Orleans. This guidon was presented by
Captain Nims to Governor Draper on June 9, 1910, and may
be seen at the State House in the Hall of Flags. It is of a
golden bronze color, and on it are the crossed cannon of the
battery, the words Second Massachusetts over the state
shield and the names of twelve battles in which the battery
took part. Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, Irish Bend, Vermillion
Bayou, Port Hudson, Clinton, Carrion Crow Bayou, Grand
Coteau, Vermillionville, Indian Bend, Wilson's Farm, Sabine
As the time of enlistment of the original members was about
to expire and as new recruits were coming in, the battery
was divided into two divisions known as the Old and the
New Companies. The veterans were reUeved from nearly
all military service while the recruits with new guns and
equipments spent much of their time in drill.
While the men were waiting for transportation North,
Captain Nims was ordered to Boston on recruiting service,
and on July 27 he started North leaving Lieutenant Green-
leaf in command of the original battery.
On July 31 they went aboard the United States Mail
Steamer Matanza and started down the river, the whole
company singing "Home Sweet Home." All along the
homeward route the men were greeted Mith public demon-
strations of esteem and appreciation. They arri\ed m
Boston August 9, the company consisting of 78 men and
two officers. Second Lieut. J. W. Greenleaf being the only
76 Second Massachusetts Battery
officer present, save Captain Nims. They were met at the
station by Captain Nims and Captain Cummings of the
Boston Light Artillery, with a detachment of the company,
and were taken to the United States Hotel, where a hand-
some breakfast was served. They were then escorted through
the principal streets, arriving at the Armory about one
o'clock. Here a grand dinner was had, after which Mayor
Lincoln welcomed the veterans home in a few brief and cordial
words. Captain Nims responded in an appropriate manner
and the men were then furloughed until the 16th.
On that day they met at the Armory, delivered the flags
to Captain Nims to be put in the State House, and were
mustered out of the United States service August 16, 1864.
While this marks the end of the history of the original
Nims' Battery, as 23 of the original number had reenhsted
and recruits had been received from time to time, the organiza-
tion of the 2d Massachusetts was continued. Transportation
was taken on the 2d of September for Morganza, where the
battery encamped for the winter. The monotony of this
encampment was varied by scouting expeditions in which
the various sections took part.
Meanwhile, Captain Nims had opened recruiting head-
quarters in the North and soon secured enlistments enough
to fill existing vacancies, and in December was on his way
back to the seat of action. Lieutenant Snow, who had been
weakened by his wounds and captivity, was discharged
November 30, and on the 7th of January, 1865, Captain
Nims resigned his commission. Lieutenant Marland was
promoted to fill the vacancy, the other lieutenants were
advanced, and the second lieutenancies were filled by the
promotion of First Sergeant Louis W. Swan and Sergeant
Jacob M. Ellis, both of Boston.
The battery was next ordered to report to General Steele
for active service, and accordingly arrived at New Orleans
on March 7, where it took transport for Barrancas, Fla.,
Second Massachusetts Battery 77
arriving there on the 10th. After waiting about a week it
began its march through the woods and swamps of Florida
toward Mobile. Rain fell most of the time and the mud
was unfathomable. Fighting its way from point to point
wherever troops could fight, the battery finally reached Fort
Blakely on April 2. It was necessary to take this point
before proceeding to Mobile, and after waiting a few days
the place was finally taken by assault on April 9, 1865. After
the fall of Fort Blakely the battery started with a column of
infantry and cavalry toward Claiborne, Ala. Its last serious
conflict was at Daniel's Landing on the 11th.
For the next seven weeks the battery was almost constantly
on the march until men, horses, and mules were completelj'
worn out. Late in May, Columbus, Miss., was reached. The
men were sent to Mobile and then on to Vicksburg, which
they reached on June 4. Since landing in Florida they had
traveled over 1600 miles.
The company encamped at Vicksburg till July 22, when
it turned its equipment over to the United States authorities
and set out for home.
Boston was reached on the 4th of August, the men encamp-
ing on Galloupes Island till the 11th, when they were paid and
NIMS' BATTERY ASSOCIATION
After over three years of association in camp and field tlie
ties of comradeship among the members of the battery were
too strong to be ignored and the mustering out of the original
members had hardly severed the official bond than prepara-
tions were begun for the formation of an organization to be
known as Nims' Battery Association. On December 10,
1864, a meeting was called at the Webster House, at which
time this association was organized and officers elected.
The preamble to the constitution as given in the first
secretary's book is as follows:
"Associated as we have been together for the past three
years both in camp and on the field of battle, bound together
by more than brotherly ties, we should feel grateful for our
safe return and proud to know that we once constituted a
battery that knew no superior in style or action.
"Therefore we the undersigned do organize an association
for our mutual benefit and do hereby adopt the following
rules and regulations to secure good order and to determine
our rights, duties and privileges as members of said asso-
The officers chosen at this time were: President, Henry E.
Brown; Vice-President, George E. Ham; Secretary, P. J.
Mayer; Treasurer, William D. Butts.
As the vice-president and secretary dechned to serve, these
offices were filled at a subsequent meetmg by the election
of C. B. Maxwell, Vice-President; J. S. Knowlton, Secretary.
It was voted that regular meetings should be held monthly
and the place of meeting w^as to be at Evans Hall, Tremont
The early records of the association give only a hint of the
80 Second Massachusetts Battery
life of the organization, but we will indicate a few incidents
that may be of interest to the surviving members.
On March 27, 1865, we find that the battery attended as
a body the grand mass meeting of the Veterans' Union held
in Tremont Temple, while on June 1 at a grand procession
in Boston it appeared on parade with badges and drum corps
and bearing the colors carried by them during the war. A
letter from Captain Nims, who was then in New Orleans,
in reply to a request for the colors is incorporated in the
records and may well be quoted here.
"Your note dated April 4 came to hand yesterday morning
requesting the loan of the company colors on all important
occasions, once the colors borne by the noble old 2d Massa-
chusetts Battery which I am ever proud to call mine. In
answer I will say that it gives me great pleasure through the
representative of the association to tender the use of the
colors on all important occasions. Knowing well the past
conduct of the members of the association, I have no fear
for the care and protection of the colors while under their
charge. Wishing all prosperity and happiness I subscribe
"Respectfully your humble servant,
"O. F. Nims."
Although few fatalities occurred on the field or in camp
among" the members of the battery, the first year at home
brought death to some of the number, among whom were
Comrade J. C. Tate, who died on April 16, 1865, and Comrade
Charles W. Green, who died on June 25 of the same year.
In both instances the battery paid the last sad honors to
its former comrades and in one case gave material aid as
well. We also find under the date August 6, 1866 resolu-
tions on the death of A. Barsantee, another one of the boys.
The first social event in the history of the association was
a grand ball held about the first of March, 1865. Other
Second Massachusetts Battery 81
balls followed, and indeed they seem to have become annual
affairs kept up for some time; for in a newspaper clipping we
read: "The seventh annual ball of Nims' Battery Association
took place last evening at Boylston Hall. As the members
of this association bear an enviable reputation in matters of
this kind the hall was filled with a very good humored and
sociable company. . . . These balls always afford a
good opportunity for old comrades to meet and enjoy social
intercourse and pleasant reminiscences."
As time went on and other duties and interests became more
imperative, the monthly meeting at Evans Hall was no longer
deemed advisable and Colonel Nims kindly tendered the
use of a room at 80 Cambridge Street, where the association
property could be kept and meetings held. This offer was
accepted and the change made on July 15, 1867.
We have no records as to where and when the first annual
banquet took place. We find, however, an interesting account
of the fourth annual banquet taken from the Boston Journal,
undated, which is as follows:
"The fourth annual reunion of the Nims' Battery Associa-
tion was held last evening in the parlors of the American
House. About 40 members were present, most of them
men who went out at the first and stayed at the post till the
battery was mustered out of service. General William
Schouler was the invited guest on this occasion.
"After an hour's social intercourse the meeting was called
to order by the President, Col. O. F, Nims.
"The committee appointed to consider the matter of the
preparation of the history of the battery reported that little
progress had been made. Some material had been collected
but more funds were needed. The matter was discussed
quite freely, with the prevailing opinion that the work should
be completed and pubhshed. . . . After dinner was
served. General Schouler was called upon and said he was
glad to meet Colonel Nims and his old command and would
82 Second Massachusetts Battery
only say what was said of them when at the front that this
battery was one of the best, if not the best, that went from
Massachusetts. . . . The regular toasts were then
Our Country — ^response by Mr. Thomas Knights who sang
Massachusetts — response by Captain Marland.
Nims' Battery — response letter from Col. H. E. Paine, etc.
Another interesting meeting was held on December 12,
1879. "It was the first gathering of the old organization
which had occurred for five years and fully 40 members were
present accompanied by several of the 13th Battery. The
early part of the evening was spent in social intercourse,
singing of songs, and the election of ofiicers. The after dinner
exercises included speeches, reminiscences of camp life and
interesting facts concerning the association since the close of
the war. Letters of regret were received from many promi-
nent members of the old battery and from Col. H. E. Paine
of the 4th Wisconsin Regiment."
Other notable occasions were the reunion at the home of
Comrade John G. Dimick, Worcester, where the hospitality
of the host and his wife made the meeting especially dehght-
ful, and the 25th anniversary in 1890 when nearly fifty of
the boys together with Generals Dudley and Kimball and
/ Past Deputy Commander Billings as guests gathered at
the call of the bugler to a feast of good things and an evening
of fellowship and army stories.
In 1888 the Nims' Battery Ladies' Social Club was organ-
ized and since that date has held its meetings annually at the
time of the battery reunion. Its members are the mothers,
wives, and daughters or indeed any relative of the men of
the battery and its purpose is not solely social but mutually
helpful as well. It aims to visit the sick among the members,
to give material aid if necessary and in any way possible
assist the organization to which it is auxiliary.
Second Massachusetts Battery 83
The annual reunions were at first held on February 22,
but in recent years this date has been changed to April 19.
As the years have passed the grim reaper Death has ap-
peared more and more often and the ranks have gradually
thinned until in 1912 only 14 of the regular members were
present at the annual reunion.
To those who remain, however, the memories and asso-
ciations of more than a half century ago are still precious,
and form a bond which will be broken only when life itself
LIFE OF COL. ORMAND F. NIMS
A history of the 2d Massachusetts Light Artillery \\i[\
hardly be regarded as complete unless it contains a sketch of
the life of its commander, Capt. Ormand F. Nims.
i^From the time of the early settlement of America down to
the last war in which the United States has been engaged,
the Nims family has participated in the oflfensive and defen-
sive campaigns of the country save only in the war with
Mexico. Indeed it may truly be said that the commander
of Nims' Battery came of good fighting stock. The family
of Nims is descended from the old Huguenots of France, com-
ing from that part of the country where is situated the city
Nismes, from which is derived the family name de Nismes,
or as it is now written Nims. Godefroi de Nismes, or as
known here, Godfrey Nims came to this country in the 17th
century, the first mention of his name being found in
the records of Northampton under the date September 4,
1667. He was in Turner's Fight, May 18„ 1676 and was a
soldier in King Philip's War. He was twice married . His
first wife was Mary, daughter of William IVIiller and widow
of Zebadiah Wilhams. His second wife was INIehitabel,
daughter of William Smead and widow of Jeremiah Hall.
He had six children by his first wife and five by the second.
Rebecca (died young), Rebecca, John, Henry, Thankful,
Ebenezer, Thomas, Mehitabel, Mary, Mercy and Abigail.
The family of Godfrey Nims were victims of that terrible
Indian tragedy which resulted in the destruction of Deerfield,
Mass., to which place Mr. Nims had moved in 1686. This
calamity occurred February 29, 1704. On that fatal day, Mrs.
■'The facts concerning the early history of the Nims family have been
taken from addresses given by Rev. J. L. Seward, D.D., Keene, N. H.
86 Second Massachusetts Battery
Nims was captured and was slain on the way to Canada. Her
dweUing was destroyed by fire. The eldest survivmg
daughter, then Mrs. Mattoon, was slain, together with
an only child, Henry; the eldest son was captured and slain.
Ebenezer, the second son, was captured and carried to
Canada. Mehitabel, Mary and Mercy were burned with the
house. Abigail, the youngest was captured at the age of
four years and carried to Canada, where she married another
captive, Josiah Rising, then christened Ignace Raizeune,
received a permanent home, and a large domain.
It does not appear that Godfrey Nims was captured at this
time. The suggestion has been made that he was with a
military company elsewhere. An inventory of his estate
was taken at Deerfield, March 12, 1704, or 5, the presumption
being that he had died there just previously.
Ebenezer and John were the two surviving sons of Godfrey.
John has many descendants in Michigan and other parts of
the West. Ebenezer was carried to Canada as was also
another captive, Sarah Hoyt. These two were married in
Canada and had there one son also named Ebenezer. They
were redeemed by Stoddard and Williams with difficulty in
1814 and returned to Deerfield, where four more sons were
born, David, Moses, Elisha, Amasa. David, son of Ebene-
zer, was born at Deerfield, March 30, 1716 and died in Keene,
July 21, 1803. He came to Keene while a boy and was ap-
pointed scribe by the proprietors July 25, 1737. At the
first town meeting after the town was chartered by New
Hampshire which was held May 2, 1753, he was elected first
town clerk and after that held some town oflSce nearly every
year till 1776. In 1740, he was granted 10 acres of upland
in Keene, for hazarding his life and estate by living in the
place to promote the settlement of the township. Still later
he was granted 104 acres in that part of Keene, which is now
in the town of Roxbury. This estate is at present occupied
by David Brigham Nims, his great great-grandson. He
Second Massachusetts Battery 87
had ten children one of whom Asahel fell at the battle of
Bunker Hill. "On the morning when Captain Wyman and
his men left Keene for Massachusetts, Asahel came into town
from his home on the Sullivan Hills where he was clearing land
and getting ready to settle with one whom he hoped soon to
marry. He saw the military movement and was fired with
that spirit of military and patriotic fervor which has been such
a characteristic of the Nims family. One fellow who had
enlisted did not have the courage to start. Asahel consented
to take that fellow's place and lost his life in his first battle.
He was buried on the battlefield and his name is recorded on
one of the gates of Bunker Hill Park."
Zadok, another son and the grandfather of Col. Ormand
Nims fought at Lake Champlain, and it is a tradition con-
cerning him that at this time he became so exhausted that
his commander and comrades believed him dead. They were
preparing his body for burial, when to their delighted sur-
prise he came to his senses and afterward fully recovered.
Col. Ormand F. Nims was born in Sullivan, N. H., August
30, 1819, his father. Philander Nims, being a farmer in that
vicinity and his mother, the daughter of Col. Solomon Wliite
of Uxbridge, Mass.
Colonel White served seven years in the War for Inde-
pendence and later commanded a Massachusetts regiment at
the head of which he marched to Worcester at the time of
Shay's Rebellion. An uncle, Frederick Nims, served during
the War of 1812 performing creditable military service.
Ormand Nims was twenty-three years old when he left the
farm in Sulhvan and came to Boston, where in 1854 he
bought a drug store on Cambridge Street and set up m
business for himself. His first taste of a militarj^ career had
been when, a boy of fifteen, he had joined the Sullivan
Militia commanded by his brother. In 1853 he with his two
brothers joined the Lancers and this branch of the miUtia of
88 Second Massachusetts Battery-
Massachusetts had no more ardent members than these three
young men from New Hampshire.
It happened that about this time General Sherman's
Battery of United States artillery came to Boston from
Newport for the purpose of giving an exhibition in encamp-
ment, parade, and drill on Boston Common. Young Nims
saw the drill and was delighted; after this nothing would do
for him but the artillery.
Early in 1854 he enlisted in a new battery raised under
command of Capt. Moses G. Cobb, and was made first ser-
geant on the night of his enlistment. After three years of ser-
vice, he was made fourth lieutenant and later received command
of the battery. During his term of command he made this
battery famous for its efficiency and perfect organization.
"I resigned from my command in 1860," said Colonel
Nims in an interview some years since, "and my last appear-
ance with it, my last parade in fact, was on the occasion of
the review on Boston Common by the Prince of Wales, the
late King Edward, who was on a visit to America."
Then came the Civil War. The battery with which Colo-
nel Nims had been connected was among the first to volunteer
and although he was not a member he rendered efficient aid
in equipping and drilhng the men, accompanying them as far
as New York when they started on active service. Just as he
took the train, a prominent official said to him, "Nims, we
will have six guns ready for you when you return.
The organization of the 2d Massachusetts and its service in
the field has already been recorded in the pages of this book
and this naturally includes the mihtary career of its captain.
A few quotations may serve to show the more personal side
of Colonel Nims and the relations existing between the
commander and his men.
The following extract is from a letter written by an officer
while at Franklin, La. " Captain Nims is the hardest working
officer I ever saw, always looking out for the interests of the
Second Massachusetts Battery 89
battery and the men. Hardly ever in his quarters, nothing
escapes his observation. He is a man of strict probity and
has none of the minor vices, always rehable and reminds one of
the hero Garibaldi. Although proud of his battery and its rep-
utation, and pleased at anything wiitten or said in its praise,
he thoroughly detests personal flattery and indeed I would
not venture to say this much to liim for my commission."
A quotation from the Boston Transcript at the close of the
war: "It is a remarkable fact that during the three and a half
years that Captain Nims commanded the 2d Battery,
punishment was to its members almost unknown. Splendid
discipline was maintained solely by esprit de corps and by
the respect and affection entertained for the commander on
one hand and by the fatherly care and sohcitude always
exhibited by Captain Nims for his men under all circum-
stances. The slight mortahty by disease in this battery is
attributed by the members to the efficiency of their leader."
Some years after the war a niece of Colonel Nims was
visiting in the South and dined at the home of a former
Confederate captain. She was told that at one time during
the war, orders were given to the Confederate officers to kill
Captain Nims at any cost as his battery was inflicting so
much damage upon their forces.
After the discharge of the original Nims' Battery at the
end of three years, Captain Nims immediately secured enough
enhstments for another battery and at once returned to New
Orleans. But an injury to his ankle received while he was at
home to muster out his men, and the fact that most of his
boys were no longer with him led him to resign his commission
and accept a position in the Chief Quarter-Master's depart-
ment at New Orleans, where he remained till after the close
of the war. After peace had been fully restored and the work
of reconstruction had been begun, Captain Nims returned to
Boston and bought back the little drug store he had left at the
beginning of the war, where he remained for nearly a half
90 Second Massachusetts Battery
century until at the age of ninety he retired from business, in
1910. After the return of peace the attention of the govern-
ment was directed to Captain Ninas' services and on March
13, 1865, by special enactment of the Senate he received the
titles of "Brevet Major — Brevet Lieutenant — Colonel — and
Brevet Colonel, for gallant and meritorious service during the
war," thus explaining the title Colonel Nims.
After leaving the army. Colonel Nims took almost no part
in military or political affairs — except in connection with
Nims' Battery Association and for a short time serving as
commander of Post 7, G.A.R. He was also a member of the
Loyal Legion. He would never accept a pension. To
quote his own words on the subject, "I don't want a
pension. It doesn't seem right to me that a man should be
paid by the Federal government simply because he was in the
army. I served my country to the best of my ability and I
don't want any pay for it either. If one were incapacitated
for earning a living that would be a different matter."
During the half century that Colonel Nims maintained his
drug store at the West End he saw many changes in that
neighborhood. Someone has said that he served the poor
and needy from his little store as faithfully as he ever served
his country in the days of the war. Everyone in that section
regarded him as a friend and helper, and he was always
ready to give aid to those who needed it. He made it a
practice to give away one prescription at least, every day.
If the families of any of his men were in need, it was his delight
to care for and assist them.
Colonel Nims died at his home, 42 Blossom Street, on May
23, 1911, at the age of 91 years. His funeral was held at
Trinity Church on May 25 and was attended by the remain-
ing members of the battery and by members of the Loyal
Legion together with many friends who honored and loved
him. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
A Christian patriot and soldier.
SECOND MASSACHUSETTS BATTERY
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